Force Disparities

This case in Florida is a great example of the kind of situation you don’t want to find yourself in, and this is happening in a state with a “stand your ground” law.  Based on what I saw of the reaction to Marko’s post from the other day, I think a lot of folks out there are confused about what a force disparity is, and when you can claim it.

Grandma has a pretty good case claiming a force disparity if she shoots a young adult male who is attacking her.  But a healthy young male is going to have a difficult time claiming a force disparity against another healthy young male even if that other male is larger than you.   When you get into healthy males against healthy males, force disparity is whatever you can convince a jury it is.  This is the situation our Florida friend is going to end up in.  All the “stand your ground” law does is eliminate a duty to retreat before resorting to deadly force, and reduce self-defense to a “preponderance of evidence” standard from a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.   It does not change the fundamental calculus about when deadly force may be used.

6 thoughts on “Force Disparities”

  1. No no no. The article must have gotten it wrong. The Florida “Make My Day” law means that people will shoot each other for no good reason and get away with it. Right? Hah, no! You shoot someone, you’re gonna be prosecuted. These laws just make it easier for a good guy to win… but they don’t guarantee the good guy wins.

  2. “This is a procedural case about how much evidence the defendant has to put forward to get the immunity.”

    Excuse me? The DEFENDANT has to prove….

    How nice that we’re operating under guilty until proven innocent…not to mention that I bet the usual shenanigans come into play on deciding just what qualifies as evidence.

  3. Tom:

    The standard is preponderance of the evidence. Self-defense is typically an affirmative defense, meaning that it’s a defense against the charge of murder or manslaughter. The state still has to prove their case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Preponderance of the evidence means the prosecution or grand jury has less legal grounds to indict or to bring charges.

  4. One quibble:

    “When you get into healthy males against healthy males, force disparity is whatever you can convince a jury it is. This is the situation our Florida friend is going to end up in.”

    While I agree with the first sentence (in a 1 on 1 situation), it may not be the situation in this case. From the article:

    “Horn has also said his severe heart condition would have made it dangerous for him to have a fistfight with Martell.”

    Depending on what that heart condition is, he may be exactly right about how much danger he was in. Also, the person who was killed apparently had been “dragged away” by friends (or bystanders – the article wasn’t clear) and returned to start a fight after being warned that Horn had a gun. He was violently intoxicated and obviously out of control.

    That being said, I agree with the main point of your post – he should not be immune from prosecution just by claiming self defense. That’s not what “stand your ground” is about. If the facts or the sufficiency of the self-defense claim are in dispute (and they are in this case), then it should go to trial.

  5. Our CCW instructor made it clear that a hidden “defect” (hemophilia, heart problem, physical handicap not readily apparent) in a victim of an assault which could lead to death or grave bodily injury was the problem of the perpetrator. In other words, a mugger who attempts to assault someone with a non-obvious condition is the one running the risk.

    I personally appear to be a (somewhat pudgy) middle-aged man in good health, but what is not apparent are the four titanium bolts and plate in my neck vertebrae, which make it impossible for me to participate in hand-to-hand fighting anymore. If someone assaults me even with only bare fists, it is an immediate and credible threat to my life, much less grave bodily harm (such as paralysis from the neck down).

    If someone were to threaten me with “just” a beating, it becomes their problem that they didn’t know that it was life-threatening to me.

    I can’t speak to the specifics in the cited case in FL, but even without a “castle doctrine” law where I live, protection of your life (or body from grave bodily harm) is still accepted for a claim of legal self-defense.

  6. blackwing1 – your assailant’s belief or knowledge is not a factor in your use of self defense. If would be a factor as to intent in criminal charges.

    Your belief that there is a danger of imminent death or serious bodily injury must be reasonable; the danger creating the belief must be real or honestly believed by you to be real; and the belief of the danger must be founded on reasonable grounds. Your injury could make it reasonable for you to use deadly force in circumstances where such force would not be reasonable for those not afflicted.

    Deadly force is personal and will be examined as to the specifics of the situation.

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