“A man’s home is his castle.” But what happens if you need to defend yourself in your castle – your home, car or hotel room?
Florida’s Castle Doctrine is located in Florida Statute 776.013 and states, in part, that a person is presumed to have acted defensively if he or she uses deadly force against someone who is presenting an imminent threat of great bodily harm or death while entering, having entered or trying to remove the person against his or her will from a home, vehicle or dwelling. Additionally, the person using or threatening to use defensive force must know or have reason to believe the unlawful and forcible entry or act was occurring or had occurred.
In plain language, you can use force to defend yourself against someone if these two criteria are met.
This law deals specifically with your home or any structure that is designed to accommodate people dwelling (sleeping) in it, whether temporary or permanent, mobile or otherwise. This could also apply to an occupied vehicle – not an empty car, but your car with you in it, anywhere.
The first requirement is that the person has to have entered the dwelling or occupied vehicle unlawfully and by force. For example, they could open the door without permission, or they could be attempting to pry open a window. You don’t have to wait till they get inside; there is a presumption they mean no good. You cannot, however, use force against someone who kicks down the door shouting, “Sheriff’s Office! Search Warrant!” There is a possibility that they may be entering your dwelling lawfully. Your lifestyle dictates the chances of that happening – hopefully, they are slim.
This law not only covers the act of illegal and forcible entry, but also the act of removing you against your will from your home, vehicle or other domicile. If someone opens your car door and tries to drag you out of the car, you can use deadly force to protect yourself, unless they are wearing a uniform.
Lastly, the person using defensive force has to believe the crime mentioned had or is occurring. For example, you don’t necessarily have to watch someone trying to get into your house unlawfully or by force – if you find them in your home already, you can probably take action.
“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
Now, play the “what if” game. What if you are in bed and hear a crash. You get up to check the house and find a drunk man getting a beer from your refrigerator. While you can legally use deadly force against this man, should you? Would returning to a safe location in your house and calling 911 be better? Let’s hypothesize that he turns around and starts to walk toward, yelling at you because he thinks you’re trespassing in HIS HOUSE. Maybe he’s your neighbor or your neighbor’s teenager. He may or may not be armed — how would this information affect your decision making process?
The key here is knowing what the law says is permissible and thinking through all of your options – not only what you can do, but what you should do. You have to use your own personal sense of morality and judgment, but you should take time to think about these scenarios before you need a quick solution. Your life and the lives of those around you could be dramatically affected, for better or for worse.