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Stand Your Ground and Self Defense in Florida by Charnele Tate: Court Rules

Federal Criminal Rules Handbook

Rule 104. Preliminary Questions
(a) In General.The court must decide any preliminary question about whether a witness is qualified, a privilege exists, or evidence is admissible. In so deciding, the court is not bound by evidence rules, except those on privilege.
(b) Relevance That Depends on a Fact.When the relevance of evidence depends on whether a fact exists, proof must be introduced sufficient to support a finding that the fact does exist. The court may admit the proposed evidence on the condition that the proof be introduced later.
(c) Conducting a Hearing So That the Jury Cannot Hear It.The court must conduct any hearing on a preliminary question so that the jury cannot hear it if:
   (1) the hearing involves the admissibility of a confession;
   (2) a defendant in a criminal case is a witness and so requests; or
   (3) justice so requires.
(d) Cross-Examining a Defendant in a Criminal Case. By testifying on a preliminary question, a defendant in a criminal case does not become subject to cross-examination on other issues in the case.
(e) Evidence Relevant to Weight and Credibility. This rule does not limit a party's right to introduce before the jury evidence that is relevant to the weight or credibility of other evidence.

Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure

95:76 Jury Instructions on Circumstantial Evidence

§ 95:76. Nonstandard jury instructions—Circumstantial evidence
Circumstantial evidence is legal evidence and a crime or any fact to be proved may be proved by such evidence. A well connected chain of circumstances is as conclusive, in proving a crime or fact, as is positive evidence. Its value is dependent upon its conclusive nature and tendency.
Circumstantial evidence is governed by the following rules:
1. The circumstances themselves must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt;

2. The circumstances must be consistent with guilt and inconsistent with innocence; and

 3. The circumstances must be of such a conclusive nature and tendency that you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of defendant's guilt (the fact to be proved).

If the circumstances are susceptible of two equally reasonable constructions, one indicating guilt and the other innocence, you must accept the construction indicating innocence.
Circumstances which, standing alone, are insufficient to prove or disprove any fact may be considered by you in weighing direct and positive testimony. 
Source: Westlaw

Florida Standard Jury Instructions

Because there are many defenses applicable to self-defense, give only those parts of the instructions that are required by the evidence.
Read in all cases.
  • An issue in this case is whether the defendant acted in self-defense. It is a defense to the offense with which (defendant) is charged if the [death of] [injury to] (victim) resulted from the justifiable use of deadly force.
    •   Definition.
      • Deadly force” means force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
  • The use of deadly force is justifiable only if the defendant reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to [himself] [herself] while resisting:
    • 1. another's attempt to murder [him] [her], or
    • 2. any attempt to commit (applicable felony) upon [him] [her], or
    • 3. any attempt to commit (applicable felony) upon or in any dwelling, residence, or vehicle occupied by [him] [her].
      • Insert and define applicable felony that defendant alleges victim attempted to commitGive if applicable §§ 776.012, 776.031, Fla.Stat.
  • A person is justified in using deadly force if [he] [she] reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent
    • 1. imminent death or great bodily harm to [himself] [herself] or another, or
    • 2. the imminent commission of (applicable forcible felony) against [himself] [herself] or another.
      • Insert and define applicable forcible felony that defendant alleges victim was about to commit. Forcible felonies are listed in § 776.08, Fla.Stat
  • However, the use of deadly force is not justifiable if you findGive only if the defendant is charged with an independent forcible felony. See Giles v. State, 831 So.2d 1263 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002).
    •   1. (Defendant) was attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of(applicable forcible felony); or
      • Define applicable forcible felony. Define after paragraph 2 if both paragraphs 1 and 2 are given. Forcible felonies are listed in § 776.08, Fla.Stat.
    • 2. (Defendant) initially provoked the use of force against [himself] [herself], unless:
      • a. The force asserted toward the defendant was so great that [he] [she] reasonably believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and had exhausted every reasonable means to escape the danger, other than using deadly force on (assailant).
      • b. In good faith, the defendant withdrew from physical contact with (assailant) and clearly indicated to (assailant) that [he] [she] wanted to withdraw and stop the use of deadly force, but(assailant) continued or resumed the use of force.
Read in all cases.
  • In deciding whether defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge [him] [her] by the circumstances by which [he] [she] was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing the defendant need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, the defendant must have actually believed that the danger was real.
    • No duty to retreat. § 776.013(3), Fla. Stat. See Novak v. State 974 So.2d 520 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) regarding unlawful activity. There is no duty to retreat where the defendant was not engaged in any unlawful activity other than the crime(s) for which the defendant asserts the justification.
  • If the defendant [was not engaged in an unlawful activity and] was attacked in any place where [he] [she] had a right to be, [he] [she] had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand [his] [her] ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if [he] [she] reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to [himself] [herself] [another] or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
    • Define applicable forcible felony from list in § 776.08, Fla.Stat. that defendant alleges victim was about to commit.
Presumption of Fear (dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle). Give if applicable § 776.013(2)(a)-(d), Fla.Stat.
  • If the defendant was in a(n) [dwelling] [residence] [occupied vehicle] where [he] [she] had a right to be, [he] [she] is presumed to have had a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm to [himself] [herself] [another] if (victim) had [unlawfully and forcibly entered] [removed or attempted to remove another person against that person's will from] that [dwelling] [residence] [occupied vehicle] and the defendant had reason to believe that had occurred. The defendant had no duty to retreat under such circumstances.
Exceptions to Presumption of Fear. § 776.013(2)(a)-(d), Fla.Stat. Give as applicable.
  • The presumption of reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm does not apply if:
    • a. the person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in [or is a lawful resident of the [dwelling] [residence]] [the vehicle], such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial, supervision order of no contact against that person; or
    • b. the person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used; or
    • c. the person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the [dwelling] [residence] [occupied vehicle] to further an unlawful activity; or
    • d. the person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer, who enters or attempts to enter a [dwelling] [residence] [vehicle] in the performance of [his] [her] official duties and the officer identified [himself] [herself] in accordance with any applicable law or the person using the force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.
  • A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter another's [dwelling] [residence] [occupied vehicle] is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.
    • Definitions. Give if applicable § 776.013(5), Fla.Stat.
  • As used with regard to self defense:
    • “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent or mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.
    • “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.
    • “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.
Physical abilities. Read in all cases.
  • In considering the issue of self-defense, you may take into account the relative physical abilities and capacities of the defendant and (victim).
Read in all cases.
  • If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find the defendant not guilty.
  • However, if from the evidence you are convinced that the defendant was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find, [him] [her] guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved.

Taken From the Florida Bar Florida Standard Jury Instructions 

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