The Threatened Use of Force Act

Seal Domestic Violence ArrestThe Threatened Use of Force Act was created as an amendment to the “stand your ground” law. The act is indented to expand the circumstances of “stand your ground” laws to allow a person to brandish a gun or shoot off a warning shot in the event that he or she feels that his or her life is in danger. The Threated Use of Force Act, if passed, hopes to provide protection for men and women defending themselves in the face of immediate danger.

You may be asking yourself why the Threatened Use of Force Act is necessary when Florida already has a “stand your ground law” in place? The Florida “stand your ground” law relieves an individual of the obligation to retreat when he or she feels that his or her life is in danger, allowing the individual to use deadly force to protect him or herself, if necessary. There is, however, a strange loophole in the law.

Strangely, in Florida, the “stand your ground” laws protect individuals who have been given no choice but to use deadly force against an attacker; however, the law does not protect individuals who merely brandish an weapon, namely a gun, or shoot of a warning shot. Florida’s current draconian “10-20-Life” law articulates that brandishing a gun can warrant a 10-year prison sentence, shooting a warning shot can warrant a 20-year prison sentence, and shooting a person may warrant 25 years-to-life.

Most people are now familiar with the case of the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, a case in which a 28-year-old man named George Zimmerman shot a 17-year-old boy named Trayvon Martin while on neighborhood watch for his gated community. Zimmerman claimed that he was defending himself against Martin and was acquitted for shooting Martin under the protection of “stand your ground” laws. Had Zimmerman merely flashed his gun or fired a warning shot to scare off Martin, under Florida’s current law, would the case’s verdict have resulted in a finding of guilt rather than resulting in an acquittal?

In another Florida case, a woman named Marissa Alexander was given a 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot during a dispute with her abusive husband in front of her children, which resulted in a guilty finding of aggravated assault with a firearm. If the Threatened Use of Force Act is passed, the act should close the loophole in Florida’s “stand your ground” law by allowing individuals to defend themselves by threatening to shoot an attacker, rather than actually being forced to use deadly force, which for individuals like Alexander, may be all the difference between self-defense and a prison sentence.

How the Threatened Use of Force Act may Affect Future Cases

It is still uncertain whether the Threatened Use of Force Act will change Alexander’s sentence, or future sentencing for that matter. According to Greg Newburn, the Florida director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the new act might not guarantee the protection of individuals who show or fire a gun in self-defense, if the prosecutors do not change the way they prosecute casesThe Thr. The “10-20-Life” law was created to protect against criminals that use guns during robberies or other illegal activities. Unfortunately, brandishing or shooting a gun in self-defense was not specifically excluded from “10-20-Life” and therefore has resulted in a stringent law that produces harsh sentencing for people that might not otherwise have a criminal record, let alone a lengthy jail sentence.

How to Clear a Domestic Violence Offense

If you were arrested for domestic violence, or convicted for an offense, you may be eligible to have your domestic violence offense expunged from your Florida criminal record. Even if you were merely acting in self-defense, and the act resulted in a domestic violence charge, your charge will stay on your criminal record until you have the charge expunged. has a great article on expunging a domestic violence charge.

As per Florida Statue Section 943.0585, to be eligible to expunge your domestic violence case from your Florida criminal record:

If you meet these requirements, you may be eligible to expunge your domestic violence charge expunged from your criminal record. While you always have the option to file the motion for expungement on your own, it is highly advisable to employ the services of a Florida based expungement attorney. Make sure that the attorney you hire to represent you has experience expunging cases in Florida and is licensed by the Florida State bar, as this knowledge of the law in the field of expungements and domestic violence will be indispensible.