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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Florida Self Defense Case Law Comment
    Gregory Morris, 12/18/07 10:43:46 am
    Here's another one for the books. (pdf)

    The story: Guy A breaks into Guy B's garage and smashes up his car. Guy A leaves the garage and moves away from Guy B's property. Guy B grabs a gun and shoots Guy A.

    The trial court dismissed the case based on the immunity granted by the presumptions (sections 776.013 and 776.032, Florida Statutes) in Florida's Castle Doctrine. The state appealed, and the district court of appeals overturned the dismissal. When Guy B shot Guy A, Guy B was not covered by the immunity in the statute. Guy A was not in his garage, or in the process of breaking into his garage at the time he was shot.

    If you have any understanding of how the law works, you'll realize that the statutes don't always mean what a "reasonable person" would interpret them to mean. Rather, you have to take the actual statute and binding case law to derive some kind of understanding. This is one of the first appellate court opinions on Florida's Castle Doctrine.

    Attorney Jon Gutmacher states that he feels the decision was a good one, and I agree. The shooter was in the wrong, apparently, but that isn't the focus of the ruling. Instead, the court basically decided that the law says what it means, and gives guidance that can be used in future (actual) self-defense cases. Here are some important points he has distilled from the opinion:

    1. An attached garage is covered by the immunity section of the statute.
    2. The presumption in the immunity statute of "reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary" is not rebuttable, and is a conclusive presumption of law.
    3. There is no need to prove that you were in "reasonable fear" if the facts bring the situation within the immunity statute. It is presumed -- conclusively.
    (From Attorney Jon Gutmacher's analysis.)

    Update: When I said this was "one of the first" rulings regarding the Florida's Castle Doctrine, that is true. There have been others, including rulings regarding "castle doctrine" in the sense of "pre-statute" common law. However, I believe it is the first regarding the recently added "presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm" when someone is breaking into your house.

    [Comments are closed after a month.]

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