The First District Court of Appeal of Florida has decided the case of Finkelstein v. State, 2015 WL 798162. In Finkelstein, the defendant was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon. The defendant moved to dismiss the charges, claiming statutory immunity pursuant to §776.032, Fla. Stat. (2013), arguing that the deadly force he used was justifiable to defend himself. This statute, commonly referred to as the "stand your ground" defense provides:
On February 18, 2015, the Fourth District Court of Appeal decided the case of Norman v. State, 2015 WL 669582 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015). The defendant in Norman was arrested and charged with the offense of open carrying of a weapon, in violation of §790.053, Fla. Stat. (2012). He filed a motion to dismiss, which was denied by the trial court. However, the court certified three questions to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, all of which related to the constitutionality of Florida's open carry laws. Those questions were: (1) is Florida's statutory scheme related to the open carry of firearms constitutional; (2) do the exceptions to the prohibition against open carry constitute affirmative defenses to a prosecution for a charge of open carry, or does the State need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular defendant is not conducting himself or herself in the manner allowed; and (3) does the recent "brief and open display" exception unconstitutionally infect the open carry law by its vagueness?
Florida's Stand Your Ground Law (SYGL) (§776.032, Fla. Stat. (2013) gives a person both immunity from criminal prosecution and civil liability from the use of deadly force when he or she believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to self or others or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. This law also provides that before the reasonableness of force issue is presented to a jury, the trial court must decide whether the case should proceed at all. When the defendant files a motion to dismiss on SYGL, the trial court must decide whether "...based on circumstances as they appeared to the defendant when he or she acted, a reasonable and prudent person situated in the same circumstances and knowing what the defendant knew would have used the same force as did the defendant." This is known as an objective standard; it is not what the defendant believed, it is what a reasonable person would have believed.