There are times when a person is in danger, and so extensive measures might need to be taken to protect this person. In doing so, however, you may have committed what would have otherwise been considered a crime in Florida. In your defense, you can use the fact that you were defending this other person. But there are certain elements of this defense that must be demonstrated in order for it to work.

At Law office of John Rutkowski, our criminal defense lawyer will outline what the elements of this type of defense are and guide you throughout the criminal process while developing this defense. Contact us today at (941) 888-0709 to schedule a Free Telephone Consultation. The sooner you start your defense, the sooner you can put this matter behind you.

Understanding a Defense of Others Defense in Florida

Defense of others is a legal justification of a defendant’s use of force in circumstances where they acted in defense of another person whom they reasonably believed to be at risk of immediate harm.

Like self-defense and defense of property, defense of others in Florida is used to defend allegations of violence. The defendant does not dispute that they did the violent act, but they argue their actions were legally justified.

The specific elements and application of the law of defense of others vary between states. Generally, a defendant may be able to argue defense of another where the following two circumstances exist:

  1. They held a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary to protect someone from an immediate threat of harm; and
  2. They used reasonable force, that wasn’t excessive in the circumstances.

In some states, defense of others will only be available where a special relationship exists between the defendant and the person they’re protecting, for example, husband and wife or parent and child.

Some states allow a defendant to use lethal force to defend another person if they reasonably believed it was necessary in the circumstances.

Burden of Proof for a Defense of Others Claim in Florida

Like self-defense, defense of others in Florida is an affirmative defense. It requires the defendant to admit to the alleged act. The specific operation of defense of others and the related burden of proof vary between states.

In many states, the burden of proof for an affirmative defense is on the defendant. In these cases, the defendant must present evidence to prove, usually on a preponderance of the evidence (i.e. it is more likely true than not), that they acted in defense of another.

In other states, once the defendant has raised an affirmative defense, such as defense of others, the onus shifts back to the prosecution to disprove the defense.

Hypothetical Examples of Defense of Others in Florida

Understanding this defense can best be established through examples. Here are two the highlight the key differences between when this defense would work and when it may not.

  1. John is at a house party, talking to Liam and Tim. During a heated conversation, Tim raises his fist to punch Liam. John sees this and pushes Tim over before he can hit Liam. If John is later charged with assaulting Tim, he could argue the defense of another on the basis that he reasonably believed Liam was at risk of imminent harm, and he used reasonable force to stop Tim from hitting him. 
  2. In contrast, if rather than pushing Tim over, John stabs him with a knife, it would be unlikely John could successfully employ the defense of another as a viable defense. In this scenario, the force he used wasn’t reasonable. Rather, it was clearly excessive.

Contact a Defense Attorney in Florida Today

You can see that it can be complicated and very technical to use a defense of others defense. At Law office of John Rutkowski, our criminal defense lawyer in Florida knows when this defense can or cannot be used. If it is available in your unique case, then we will employ this defense effectively and strategically.

Call us today at (941) 888-0709 or fill out the online form to schedule a Free Telephone Consultation and to find out if this method of defense would work in your criminal case.

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