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Self-Defense Laws Vs. Excessive Force

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Corthoris J. was at his Florida home one evening playing video games when a burglar broke in.

After hearing someone inside his home, Corthoris grabbed his rifle and confronted the intruder.

An unarmed burglar immediately ran from the home.

But Corthoris chased after the burglar as he ran down the street.

And he caught up to the intruder who allegedly fell to his knees.

At this point, the suspect “begins to what appears to be to beg for his life, but the homeowner takes the rifle and shoots him multiple times.” 

Police found Corthoris walking away from the victim when they stopped him.

He immediately turned over his rifle to police and complied.

Detectives found 8 shell casings at the scene of the shooting.

Corthoris was arrested and charged with first-degree attempted murder.

During a court hearing, he admitted to the shooting. “I didn’t shoot him while he was on the ground,” he said, “I’m the victim, ma’am.”

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mindy Glazer said, “You’re the victim of a potential burglary, but you can’t just go around shooting people.”

This case will be another test of Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law.

The law says that someone doesn’t have to retreat before using deadly force to counter a threat.

But, if you are ever involved in an incident where force is necessary, you must be able to defend your actions.

You should be able to explain why it was necessary for self-defense.

With this in mind, it is critical to know the difference between justified force vs. excessive force.

Remember, the laws on self-defense differ from state to state. I’m not a lawyer so contact a local attorney for legal advice.

What is self-defense?

A common legal definition for self-defense is “defense based on justification.”

Some legal experts say self-defense is when you believe the force you use is necessary to protect yourself from another person’s unlawful force against you.

In most cases where you claim self-defense, the attack must be unprovoked. In other words, you can’t initiate the attack.

Another common factor for self-defense is that you are facing an immediate threat of injury or death.

Lastly, you should be able to explain that the level of force used was reasonable for the circumstances.

In a case of self-defense, these principles typically need to be met to defend against criminal charges.

Now, in the case of Corthoris, he did not face an immediate threat since the burglar was running away.

Yet, Florida laws say the victim doesn’t have to retreat from the threat.

So, self-defense law isn’t always cut and dry.

What Is Excessive Force?

Excessive force is when the force used is not appropriate to the circumstances.

Many times, excessive force is an action that has the potential to kill.

But the person doesn’t need to die for it to be excessive force.

Anything can be construed as excessive, whether it involves a gun, knife, or bare hands.

Basically, different incidents allow for varying levels of response.

But, once you cross the line of self-defense it can result in criminal charges.

Depending on the state you’re in the law may differ, and the criminal charges you face will depend on the state laws.

The use of excessive force when defending yourself depends on the specific situation. As well as the justification behind the actions.

Defense of property: 

When defending property such as your car, or computer, you cannot claim self-defense.

But, there is leeway if the property was inside your dwelling.

If someone breaks into your home to steal your computer, you might claim self-defense since they were inside your home.

Yet, this would depend on your state laws related to defending your home.

Obviously, you should always be prepared to defend your home against an intruder.

Many state laws say deadly force is justified if someone unlawfully enters your property, and you believe they’re about to harm someone.

Self-defense boils down to appropriate and reasonable actions to the specific circumstances.

You must prepare to defend yourself and your home.

But you need to know your local laws relating to what you can and cannot do in a self-defense situation.

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