One of the most controversial cases in recent history was the altercation between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, which left Martin dead and Zimmerman claiming self-defense. While no one will ever truly know if Zimmerman was acting in self-defense or successfully got away with murder, the case serves as an example of a high profile case involving a self-defense claim. Self-defense refers to the protection of an individual’s self or property against injury attempted by another individual—but this can get complicated because self-defense goes much deeper than simply protecting oneself. Commonly used as a defense mechanism in cases of assault, battery, or homicide, the parameters around self-defense claims differ by jurisdiction, but ultimately take the following into consideration:
Imminent Danger or Threat
Typically, to prove self-defense, one must prove that there was imminent danger or that the threat was imminent, meaning that they were about to be in harm’s way. This means that someone cannot shoot another individual and claim self-defense if there was no immediate danger or threat posed by that individual.
Reasonable Fear of Harm
Claiming self-defense can be tricky because although one might believe they were protecting themselves, the fear they had which caused them to injure another had to be reasonable. For example, let’s say you are meeting your boss for lunch. He goes to shake your hand and you, fearing harm, kick him to defend yourself. Claiming self-defense in this case would most likely not hold up in court because the fear was unreasonable because clearly you know this man and you are just meeting for lunch.
In order to prove self-defense, one must make sure that the response to the threat was appropriate or matched the level of the threat. This means an individual can only use as much force that is needed to diminish the threat. Basically, one cannot use deadly force on another individual in self-defense unless the other was also using deadly force.
Stand Your Ground Law
Many states utilize a law that says you have a duty to retreat from violence or force—this essentially means that before using any type of violent force, you must try to avoid it before resulting to physical force. Florida, however, is one state that has a “stand your ground” law enacted. The law basically removes this duty to retreat and gives you the right to defend yourself or your property if you feel endangered—which is exactly what George Zimmerman claimed.
Proving self-defense may not be as simple as some perceive it to be—there are a myriad of factors that can determine whether or not a self-defense claim is deemed justifiable. As with any case, it’s best to make sure you have a team of legal professionals on your side. The experienced attorneys at PLM are skilled in handling self-defense cases. If you would like to learn more about self-defense or have another legal question, contact PLM Attorneys today.