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Supreme Court of Florida Clarifies ‘Duty to Retreat’ Obligation

In 2014, a Florida man had his murder convicted overturned by the First District Court of Appeal, due to allegedly conflicting jury instructions relating to the defendant’s right to self defense. Recently, the Supreme Court of Florida issued a clarifying opinion in that case. The Supreme Court, in State of Florida vs. Robert Franklin Floyd quashed the lower court’s decision to overturn the conviction. Self defense cases are often among the most difficult to litigate. If you have been charged with a crime, and you believe you had the right to self defense, please contact an experienced Tampa defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Case

Robert Lloyd Franklin had been charged with, and convicted of, second degree murder in relation to a 2010 shooting. On the night of the incident, Franklin was hosting a large party at his home, when a dispute arose between him and a man named Getyron Lopez Benjamin. When Franklin demanded that Benjamin leave the premises, Benjamin allegedly briefly flashed a handgun. From there the facts are heavily disputed, but soon after that argument, Franklin shot and killed Benjamin. Franklin claimed self defense, but was initially convicted of murder. Franklin’s attorneys claimed that the jury was given conflicting instructions and that he had a right to self defense under Florida’s stand your ground law. When the Florida Supreme Court heard the case, the issue at stake was the precise extent of the legal duty to retreat, and whether or not that obligation conflicts with Florida’s stand your ground law.

Self Defense and the Duty to Retreat

In Florida, the use of deadly force is justifiable only if a person reasonably believes that the force is required to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. Deadly force can be justifiable to prevent great harm to yourself, or to another innocent party. Further, Florida also has a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, which states that anyone who is obeying the law, and is in a place where they are allowed to be, has no obligation to retreat. In that situation, they are allowed to meet force with force. However, there are some exceptions. The use of deadly force in a stand your ground case is not justifiable if:

  • The person provoked the use of force by the other party; or
  • The other party has already, in good faith, withdrawn from the conflict.

The key in this case was ‘provocation’. If one provokes the use of force by another party, that person is no longer entitled to the self defense protections under the stand your ground law. Therefore, if you are found to have provoked an attack, you have a ‘duty to retreat’ as soon as it is safely possible. According to the decision of the Supreme Court, there was no conflict in the jury instructions. Because Franklin was deemed to have provoked the attack, he was not entitled to use the stand your ground defense. The effects of the court’s decision are already being felt. In another case, a Jacksonville man had his murder conviction reinstated as a result of the Supreme Court’s legal clarification.

Contact An Experienced Tampa Defense Attorneys

All Florida felony charges are serious, if you have been charged, you need to take action immediately. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can help you craft a strong defense. Please do not hesitate to contact our Tampa Bay office today at (813) 803-6518 to schedule a free initial case review.

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