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Does Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Protect Against Civil Suits?

Golden legal scales on a dekstop

There has been a huge amount of controversy surrounding Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. In short, the law states that someone has the right to respond with force, including deadly force, when that person feels he or she is being threatened. This law made national headlines when Trayvon Martin was shot, and George Zimmerman was acquitted. Even months and months after the trial, it is making even more headlines.
In the latest case a man named Jose Alvarez attacked his co-worker, Derrick Roy Flemmings, with a baseball bat. In the criminal case Alvarez was acquitted under the “Stand Your Ground” law, but Flemmings brought a civil case against both Alvarez and the two men’s employer, ‘Professional Roofing and Sales’. The defense filed a motion that the case should be dismissed, as the assault was acquitted under the law, and as such there should be no ability to bring a civil suit. This is not an issue that’s been raised with the law yet, and the judge denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing.

The state’s Third Appellate Court has overturned the civil suit’s ruling, citing a similar law in Colorado (as Florida’s law is still newer and doesn’t have appropriate legal history under its belt yet). The ruling is that the judge will need to have an evidentiary hearing to determine whether or not the criminal case should in fact be tied to the civil suit. If the court rules that the criminal case should be tied to the civil, then the “Stand Your Ground” law might act as a total defense against both civil and criminal cases. In cases where the criminal evidence doesn’t weigh on the civil matters being brought though, the judge will have the ability to dismiss the defense and continue on with the civil trial.

The Future of “Stand Your Ground”

It’s uncertain exactly what the future holds for this controversial legislation, but it’s clear that it isn’t going away. Or, at the very least, that it would take a massive effort to uproot it now.  Since the civil aspect is now under question, it will be interesting to see how personal injury matters will evolve over time in tandem with “Stand Your Ground” law.

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