Interactions with law enforcement officers are a frequent occurrence both in Florida and throughout the rest of the U.S. Many of those cases remain amicable, but there are situations where one might feel threatened by an authority’s actions. The law permits people to use defensive force to avoid the potential of suffering death or serious injury. Yet can one react to a law enforcement officer in such a way?
The answer to that question depends on understanding the basis of the state’s self-defense laws, to what extent they allow one to act.
Understanding the Castle Doctrine
The National Conference of State Legislatures lists the Castle Doctrine as forming the foundation of many states’ self-defense statutes. The Castle Doctrine permits one to act with force (even deadly force) when another attempts to unlawfully enter into (or remove them from) their home or personal vehicle. Florida’s law follows this same philosophy.
Detailing exceptions to the state’s statute
As is the case with many laws, there are certain exceptions to the applications of Florida’s self-defense statute. According to the Florida Legislature, one of these includes acting defensively against a law enforcement official. This means that one is not justified in using self-defense in attempting to stop an officer from executing their duties (even in cases where one may feel threatened by the officer).
This exception, however, does not give law enforcement officials complete license to act in any manner in the supposed exercise of their responsibilities. Indeed, the law requires that an officer must identify themselves before acting. One may also escape criminal scrutiny if they acted defensively against a law enforcement official yet had no reason to believe the person was a peace officer.