If you read about or saw the descriptions of a recent incident in which a good samaritan in Florida came to the rescue of a Lee County deputy who was being beaten, you probably assumed that what the good Samaritan did was legally justified in the state. But what do the actual statutes in the Sunshine State say?
James Phillips, of the Katz & Phillips criminal-defense law firm in Orlando and a U.S. Law Shield of Florida Independent Program Attorney, researched the details of the incident and produced the following YouTube video to explain what the laws in the state are and how they might apply in this case:
U.S. Law Shield of Florida Independent Program Attorney James Phillips [transcript]:
“Recently, a good Samaritan who possessed a CWFL [Concealed Weapon Firearm License] came to the rescue of a Lee County deputy. This deputy had pulled over a suspect; and before the deputy could exit his vehicle, the suspect exited his, came and dragged the officer out of his car. He then started attacking him very violently, trying to get his [the deputy’s] gun and punching him [the deputy] multiple times.
“This good Samaritan saw what was going on and decided to intervene. He approached the fight, drew his firearm, which he legally possessed, and he ordered the suspect to stop what he was doing multiple times. When the suspect didn’t, the good Samaritan shot three times, resulting in the death of the suspect.
“Was this good Samaritan justified?
“Based on facts that I have viewed on the news and read on the internet, I believe so. Florida Statute 790.012 allows a person to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes such force is needed to either prevent death or great bodily harm that is imminent to either himself or to another person, in this situation the officer.
“Also under 790.012, a person is justified in using deadly force if he or she reasonably believes such force is needed to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. In this situation the forcible felony would have been the attack on the law-enforcement officer.
“So, based on the facts that I have reviewed, I believe under 790.012, the good Samaritan was absolutely justified in his actions.”