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What is "Reasonable" Deadly Force
The element of reasonableness is defined by law.
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 element of Reasonableness, which is one of the five elements of a lawful self-defense claim that must be proven by evidence produced in court. Florida state statute, chapter 776 “Justifiable Use of Force”, provides twelve sections through which, uses of force and deadly force are judged in a court of law. The words Reasonable and or Reason are used fifteen times throughout the twelve sections. Reasonableness is what I call the “Super Element” which the other four elements, (Ordered in real-time reasoning procedure) exist in a lawful rationale mind, Avoidance, Innocence, Proportionality, and Imminence, which all must be reasonable according to the law.
The argument has been established throughout human history that Reasonableness as defined by historical law is a personal societal discipline developed by learning moral law; a person is not born with it. It is not natural and must be forced upon him. Therefore, to act “Reasonably” in self-defense, one must know the applicable laws upon which to determine their belief to use any degree of physical force lawfully. And when deciding to break the historical universal natural laws of, “You Shall Not Murder”, or use lesser degrees of opposing force upon a person, the law will be used to determine the accuracy of your reasoning, both subjectively and objectively by the evidence proven in a court of law.
In Florida’s Justifiable Use of Force laws, the following two sections provide the legal determinations required for accurately forming the essential reasonable mindset, which all degrees of force upon another person must be based. (Note underlined sections and italicized words.)
SS 776.012, “A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” And again, in the same section, “A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”
In SS 776.013, the word occurs four times in the five subsections of this statute.
(1)(a) ’Non-deadly force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force; or
(b) Deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
(2) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using or threatening to use defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.”
The word Reasonableness occurs nine more times throughout the other ten sections of chapter 776. All instances address the use of force and deadly force, providing a subjective and objective legal definition of each of the other four Use-of-Force Self-Defense elements.
They again are, Innocence, which determines who the aggressor and instigator were, and Proportionality, which determines if simple force or deadly force was justifiably used, after the participant and event characteristics were evaluated. Next, Imminence is determined to know if the event occurred within a one to two second time frame, and lastly Avoidance, which is applied for determination only if the attack was proven by the evidence ‘to not be’ Imminent, and a reasonable person would have avoided it.
Stand Your Ground (SYG) law does not require a “Legal Duty to Retreat” but when Imminence and Reasonableness are scrutinized and found to be unproven, “Avoidance” can be legally reintroduced. Florida embraces this soft SYG law interpretation. In other words, if the evidence proves you lied, or, made a gross error in your judgement of Imminence and or Reasonableness, and Avoidance was in fact a viable safe option, which you did not choose to take, then you have no legal claim upon which to argue Self-Defense in court.
In other words, Florida law is based on the premise that if the attack was not imminent, there reasonably was no need to stand your ground and you could therefore reasonably have broken contact from the non-threatening situation. If the evidence proves this was true, then a defense of Lawful Self-Defense is not permissible and a serious felony charge with significant prison time will result.
Reasonableness is the legal Backdoor for the prosecution to disprove any one of the four self-defense elements. The legal evaluation begins with the evidence produced in court. The prosecution will claim your subjective evaluation of your use of force or deadly force was in error and not lawful. They will objectively attempt to prove your actions were unlawful. Consider the following scenario which will illustrate how evidence can change what seems to be subjective reasoning into objective reasoning.
You used your gun in deadly force when the perceived threat said, “I will kill you dead “ and screamed “DIE” but the threat did not move toward you or produce a weapon but had a seriously threatening appearance and posturing which resulted in your reasonable belief you would die immediately. If this were all the evidence produced, it would be judged your subjective reasoning was in error. But if you produced evidence that there was history where the threat attempted to kill you in the past but failed, and that history was proven true in court, you could be found reasonable in killing the threat. Objective reasoning proved by the process provided by the judicial system serves to vindicate your claim of self-defense. Without the proven deadly conduct history, you would be found unreasonable in your belief.
The element of reasonableness has to be subjectively proven by the evidence, then the prosecution, judge and jury analyzes your ‘subjective reasonableness evidence’ and provides ‘objective reasonable judgement’ upon which a final determination will be formed. The ‘subjective-objective test’ will be applied to all four elements of self-defense, essentially a legal battle by both the prosecution and the defense wrestling for control of the narrative as presented by the evidence in court.
It should be understood that the judicial process should be completely based in the black letter of the law and nothing else. However today, societal fairness, equality, inclusiveness is interjected into jurisdictions by progressive social activists. They have brought those three fake societal constructs into the legal process to override the historically proven subjective-objective reasoning test. Today in many areas of the USA, a ‘societal victim’ has more social-justice rights to shoot someone, than a ninety-nine-year old, white grandmother sitting in a wheelchair, shooting a six- foot six-inch in-shape man, charging her with machete in hand, screaming “Die Bitch”…..because the attacker wasn’t white.
In a sane rationale letter-of-the-law world, the evidence must prove you acted like any reasonable person would have done. If it does, then you have subjective and objective reasonableness established. All evidence must be relative, probative, and not prejudicial. But if the judicial process operates under any other influences, justice will not be arrived at, and injustice will prevail. The element of Reasonableness itself is hijacked by unreasonableness, anarchy and the death of reason ensues. Survival of the fittest becomes the law of the land, where he who dies first loses.
In our great state of Florida, the rule of moral law prevails and remains separate from the madness of social activism. Hopefully this continues.
Therefore Floridians who are gun owners and conceal carry must ask and answer this question before using deadly force, “If you were getting out of prison today after spending the last thirty years in a cell…unjustly, all things considered, would you make the same decisions again? Was it worth it?”
If the answer is no, then you had better seriously work every dangerous scenario in your mind repeatedly, addressing all societal facets of every violent action that you could experience today. Then practice a well-developed strategy repeatedly until you know you have developed the mental muscle memory to act and react legally. And keep in mind there is the possibility you will be judged by a racial grievance industrial complex prosecutor, judge and jury…who are more interested in societal justice and virtue signaling because they believe utopian justice cannot be determined without those societal interpretations of modern progressive activism virtues.
In Florida if you must use deadly self-defense, it is not required by law that you make ‘perfect decisions’ in your reasoning. Instead, you are required to make “Reasonable Decisions” which any reasonable person would do when in the situation you had imposed on you by an actual threat. So you are not required to be perfect in your determinations but rather to be reasonable in your determinations. This is how all fifty states address any use of deadly force by a law-abiding person.
And I must say the scary part aloud, “A jury of your peers will define what Reasonableness is in your case”. Act accordingly.
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 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. 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