Clearwater, Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ Shooter Arrested, Charged With Manslaughter
In July, a man named Michael Drejka shot and killed another man after a dispute in a parking lot in Clearwater, Florida. A video of the incident soon went viral and the shooting ignited a national debate as the Pinellas County Sheriff announced that he did not have the authority to arrest Mr. Drejka because of Florida’s much discussed ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.
Not all state officials shared the view of the Pinellas County Sheriff. On August 13th, Clearwater, FL prosecutors announced manslaughter charges against Michael Drejka. In this article, our Miami criminal defense lawyers explain how the Stand Your Ground defense works in Florida.
The Defense Team Must File a ‘Stand Your Ground’ Motion
Under Florida law, Stand Your Ground, when successfully invoked, offers a person immunity from prosecution for the alleged offense. If a defendant wants to raise a Stand Your Ground defense, they must file a Motion to Dismiss the charges. At that point, the court will determine if the defendant truly had legal justification to use deadly force.
There is No Duty to Retreat in Florida
Certainly, you have the right to self defense in every U.S. state. However, in many jurisdictions, there is a requirement (duty) to withdraw to safety, if it is reasonably possible to do so. In those states, you must retreat (if possible) before using deadly force. In Florida, there is no duty to retreat. That being said, defendants must be able to prove the following two things to be eligible to use the ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense:
- They must not have been engaged in criminal activity; and
- They must have had a right to be at that location.
Defendants Must Have Had a Reasonable Belief that Deadly Force was Necessary
Finally, defendants must be able to prove that they had a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to protect themselves or another person. In considering this element, a Stand Your Ground defense is somewhat similar to traditional self defense. How do defendants prove that they had a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary? Technically, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. In 2017, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that clearly spelled out the fact that prosecutors have the burden of proof in Stand Your Ground hearings. While the burden is on the prosecution, it can still be challenging for defendants to win a Stand Your Ground hearing. If you or a loved one is considering raising this defense, it is imperative that you are represented by a qualified criminal defense lawyer who can help you put together a compelling case.
Get Help From a Miami, FL Stand Your Ground Attorney Today
At Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC, our Florida criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience handling the full range of firearms related charges. If you have been charged with a crime, and you believe that you lawfully discharged your firearm, please do not hesitate to contact us today for fully confidential legal guidance. From our office in Miami, we represent defendants throughout South Florida.