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Innocence Proves Lawful Self-Defense
Innocence or Guilt in Force or Deadly Force, Defined
The main objective of this Florida Gun & Self-Defense article is to educate gun owners about gun law and self-defense law. Ignorance of the state and federal laws is not an excuse for unintentionally breaking those laws. It is gun owner’s responsibility to learn and abide by the law, and practice safe gun handling accordingly. I am not a lawyer; if you need a legal counsel secure a lawyer in your relevant jurisdiction. The following content is my opinion and interpretation derived from twelve years of education in Florida Self-Defense Law and Gun Law.
Memorize the Four Rules for Safe Firearms Handling. Mistakes will not occur by doing so. One, treat all guns as if they are always loaded with a round in the chamber, even when the gun is empty. Two, never point the muzzle at anything you ‘don’t’ want to destroy. Three, keep your finger off the trigger until your gun sights are on the intended target. Four, always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
In addition, when you pull the trigger, think of all bullets as having a prosecutor and a very expensive lawyer attached to them. If you are unsure of any situations regarding gun usage or handling or what is lawful or unlawful, please refrain from public conceal carrying of your firearm until you have proper training. Contact me, and I’ll point you in the right direction to give you the confidence to safely and legally operate your firearm.
Today’s firearms focus will be on the self-defense element of “Innocence”. Five elements need to be present for a lawful self-defense claim to be valid, (My order of Andrew Branca’s Five Elements of Self Defense places Avoidance first, which is the only difference from his ordered system of Use-of-Force Law education) they are, Avoidance, Innocence, Imminence, Proportionality, and Reasonableness. All five elements must be proven in court; without a legal self-defense claim, you will face criminal charges.
In Florida the element of Avoidance (duty to retreat before deadly force can be used) is waived in both force and deadly force cases and a Stand Your Ground (SYG) law is granted. Therefore, Floridians’ first of four required legal elements is “Innocence”. What exactly does this term mean in the context of a use-of-force self-defense event? Deadly and non-deadly force events sometime develop in a series of acts or decisions that escalate passions and emotions, resulting in psychological triggers being pulled increasing violent force.
You have heard it said that it takes two to tangle …and there are three sides to every story, your side, their side, and the truth. But in the self-defense element of Innocence, there can only be one side that evidence proves is true. The evidence must clearly establish that when you used force or deadly force you were not the initial aggressor and took no part in instigating the altercation. Proof must clearly establish that you attempted to ‘Break Contact’ from the threat, meaning you did not ‘enter into the conflict, verbally or physically.
One of the things, which most often cause people to enter into a self-defense situation, is provocation. People tend to provoke persons who initially resisted entering a conflict. And this might cause the person to engage with the initial attacker, to provoke him to cross the line of your personal space. Provocation and instigation leads to incarceration with no possibility of a self-defense legal claim. The evidence must firmly establish that you did not go to the fight, but instead remained firmly where you were legally allowed to be, acting lawfully, and unthreatening, i.e. Innocent of engaging with criminal activities.
Florida statute 776.012 (2) ……A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection (deadly force) does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground (SYG law) if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be. (The underlined section is the element of Innocence.) The second you instigate, escalate, agree to, initiate force or deadly force, you enter into a criminal act and lose innocence.
Here are a few instances where the concept of innocence should occur, meaning you cannot participate in the conflict in any way. For instance, giving someone the middle finger and spitting on the ground toward the threat during an argument. This action clearly indicates you are not the victim of a forceful or deadly force attack, but instead a mutual combatant. Acts of provocation are never in a legal grey area of ambiguity. Your actions prove either you wanted to break contact, or you did not. When the evidence is analyzed in a court of law, it must irrefutably prove you were not a participant.
The following is the mindset required to produce a lawful use of force or deadly force. First, you are always of the mindset to avoid, if possible, all potential levels of force. Instead, you perceive trouble and potential conflict before it begins and remove yourself from the risk of participation. But as the realistic situation in most cases is, let us say that the combative person pursues you and leaves you no choice but to acknowledge him and his potential threat against you.
At this point, you are facing a threat. First, if you have time, give a verbal intention to disengage and break contact without signaling any aggression or provocation. By successfully accomplishing this level of peaceful disengagement, you have given yourself the ability to determine the moment of the next element of self-defense, which is the imminent action of force. You have set the stage of the potential conflict and taken the position as being non-engaged in unlawful activity, making clear your intention to break contact and avoid. By doing this you give yourself the ability to know exactly when force or deadly force is in fact about to be an actual occurrence, i.e. beginning to happen.
You now are the ‘reasonable person’, ready to defend if necessary. At this point, there is no safe retreat because it would be impossible without putting yourself into lethal jeopardy. Bringing lethal force becomes the only choice a reasonable person has to stop the threat should it continue to escalate against your refusal to engage.
There is another situation where a slightly different type of choice must be made, which is to not go to the fight, not go toward the threat, to keep a safe distance you already have from danger or jeopardy. Remember by placing yourself into a force or deadly force scenario, clearly proves you are not innocent but instead a willing participant. The only “possible” exception ‘might’ be to save lives from an active deadly threat already in progress. For instance stopping a mass shooter or blade attacker from achieving their act of mass murder.
With this in mind consider the ‘at home scenario’. Your home and you hear something in the driveway. You look out the window and see someone attempting to break into your vehicle. Or there is someone yelling at you from the front yard, commanding you to come outside, while using a ball bat on your car. In both cases, someone is damaging or threatening to damage your personal property and showing a threat of deadly force toward you.
But let us also consider a third slightly different case, that being, ‘a future deadly threat scenario’. A person hates you to the point of death. He has said statements that ‘could’ be interpreted as deadly threats toward you. He also has a well-known reputation of carrying out threats and been incarcerated for similar crimes. He issues this threat while at a local establishment, “I will be back within a few hours to finish my business with you”. A veiled threat. After he leaves what should be your course of action. Leave, or stay and wait to prepare for battle because you do not want to appear weak?
I submit to you that all three of these scenarios are cases where you are legally required to break contact. Even if you are in a place, you are legally able to be, if there is a way of escape and there is plenty of time to remove yourself from danger, a reasonable law abiding person would have chosen to avoid the conflict. Knowing there is a deadly threat that will certainly occur if you go to the fight, or if you stay in the direct path or place where you know the fight will be in a few hours, clearly proves you are a willing combatant. Going out your locked, front door to engage a violent threat instead of calling 911 and remaining inside your home, by definition is, ‘Going to the Fight’ and proves you are not innocent but instead a mutual combatant.
By placing yourself into the direct path of criminal activity against you, you have entered into a greater than zero risk of death or grave bodily harm and legal jeopardy resulting in a lifetime in prison, that you didn’t have before you chose to enter that state of risk. The best fight you will ever win is the one you do not engage in.
A legal claim of Self-Defense is not available to anyone where the evidence proves any level of involvement. The only way to prove by the evidence that you were innocent of the deadly force encounter is to be in a state of not knowing; not being aware beforehand that a deadly encounter was going to leave you no other choice other than lethal force to save your life. And when you are in a true state of Innocence, you will know definitively when Imminence occurs. And furthermore, the steps of Reasonableness are there in your actions and subsequent evidence, ultimately proving your Innocence.
In this article, we are focused on Florida law, but in other states, you should learn the appropriate laws before you take any action. Always know the law, and then learn to shoot, if you are going to carry firearms in the public sector.
This article’s purpose is to incentivizing the reader to learn the laws required for lawful gun usage. My hope is that all conceal carry gun owners will become legally proficient and physically capable to “Aim to Win the Physical and Legal Battles” should a self-defense situation occur.” Know the Law, Learn to Shoot.”
Today’s article published online at email@example.com and FloridaGunSelfDefense.com
Florida Gun & Self-Defense offers firearms and self-defense training and education. Single or group classes or customized training is available. Visit FloridaGunSelfDefense.com for more information. Or call Dave Douglass at 863-381-8474
Dave has been a firearms instructor and trainer since 2012. He is skilled in advanced tactical gun and self-defense gun operation, in accordance with Florida gun law and use-of-force self-defense law. He is not a lawyer, but has studied Florida Use-of-Force Law and Gun Law for over the last twelve years. Dave’s articles are his interpretation and opinion and do not constitute legal advice for you. If you need legal advice, secure legal counsel in your relevant jurisdiction. Dave is an adamant supporter of an original historical literal interpretation of the Second Amendment. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org