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Florida Senate Revises Self-Defense Law

Stand Your Ground Law

The Florida Stand Your Ground law gives citizens the legal right to take all reasonable actions to defend themselves or their property from harm, including using deadly force. The Florida 10-20-Life law requires mandatory sentences for anyone who commits a felony using a firearm — 10 years for displaying a gun, 20 years for firing a gun and 25 years to life for shooting someone. These laws attempt to draw a clear distinction between innocent victims and guilty criminals, but the case of Marissa Jackson, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for firing a warning shot at her estranged husband during a domestic dispute, shows how difficult this can be. Some of her supporters wonder whether she would have been exonerated if she had shot him to death instead.

The Jackson conviction was the impetus for the recent legislation that was passed by the Florida Senate that allows some exemptions to the existing 10-20-Life law. Mandatory sentencing can be waived if:

  • Someone fires a warning shot in self-defense
  • They have no previous criminal record
  • Criminal record can be sealed and charges dropped

Many people do not understand that criminal assault is defined as making a threat to commit violence. In most cases, the presence of a firearm — even if there are no shots — immediately ramps up any charges. Under Florida law, you have the right to defend yourself, but in some cases, you may need the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney to make sure your side of the story gets heard and your legal rights are protected.