The following is a video transcript.
Florida law allows an individual to use or threaten to use non-deadly force to protect anyone—including a complete stranger—when they reasonably believe such force is necessary to prevent the imminent unlawful use of force by another person.
For example, if you witness a bully pushing someone around, under the law you are allowed to either threaten to use force or actually step in between them and use force to protect the victim. What you cannot do is shoot the bully because he is pushing his prey around. In this example, the bully is only using non-deadly force. That is force not likely to cause death or great bodily harm to his victim.
But what if the bully pulls out a knife and says he is going to do everyone a favor by killing the victim and then begins to move in for the kill? Can you now use deadly force to protect the victim? Does it matter or make a difference that you have never met this victim before?
Under this example, the answer is “yes;” you can use your firearm or other means of deadly force to protect the victim from death or serious bodily injury. And no, it does not matter if the victim is your best friend or a complete stranger.
Justification Under Florida Law
Florida Statute 776.012 Subsection 2 allows an individual to threaten to use or actually use deadly force when he or she believes such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself, herself, or another person. An individual is also justified in threatening or using deadly force if that individual reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
Forcible felonies include, but are not limited to: murder, sexual battery, robbery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and other felonies that involve the use of physical force or violence.
Going back to the example of the bully with the knife, not only would you be justified in threatening to use or using deadly force because it was reasonable to believe such force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to the victim, but it would also be reasonable to believe that such force was necessary to prevent the imminent commission of the aggravated assault (a forcible felony under Florida law).
Consider your options before physically getting involved in a confrontation between two or more strangers.
Why? If you do not witness the altercation from the start, how do you know which is the good guy and which is the bad guy?
Furthermore, if you intervene and the person you believe is the aggressor is an undercover police officer attempting to arrest a suspect who is resisting arrest, you may shoot the wrong person.
Not Knowing the Facts Can Land You In Jail…
In 2015, John Derossett was arrested in Titusville, Florida and charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder after he had a shootout with some undercover Bravard County deputies who were attempting to arrest Mr. Derossett’s niece, who he lived with. On the day of the shooting, undercover deputies came to Mr. Derossett’s home and knocked on the door. Mr. Derossett’s niece answered and one of the undercover cops grabbed her by the arm, at which time she began screaming.
Mr. Derossett, allegedly believing that his niece was being kidnapped, opened fire on the undercover deputies, not knowing who they were or what they were doing. Mr. Derossett filed an immunity motion, and after a week-long hearing, a Bravard County Judge denied his motion.
Currently, Mr. Derossett is awaiting trial.
This is a prime example of why you should only get involved in a situation defending someone else as a last option. Here, Mr. Derossett was defending a third party that he not only knew, but who was also related to him and living with him, but he is still awaiting trial.