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Improper Exhibition of a Firearm and Manslaughter in Broward County

The improper use of weapons or firearms in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County can result in tragic events. If you are facing firearms charges, contact a skilled Broward County gun crime attorney today. A recent appellate decision arose two men argued about whether a teen should be able to skateboard on a basketball court. A father and his child were playing basketball at the park. A teen was skateboarding. When the teen asked, the father told him he didn’t have a problem with his skateboarding.

A man who lived across the street yelled at the teen and told him he wasn’t allowed to skateboard. The father responded to the man across the street asking where the signs prohibiting skateboarding were since he’d just said it was fine to skateboard. The man went to his garage and then came out to the basketball court. The men argued. Then a couple at the park stopped playing to watch the argument. The man lifted up his shirt showing he had a gun and swore at the man. He started to walk away when the father grabbed him and tried to continue arguing. They wrestled. The man drew his pistol and shot when the father tried to grab it. The man died from the gunshot wound to the chest.

The man was charged with manslaughter, as well as improper exhibition of a firearm under section 790.10 and open display of a firearm under section 790.053. The case went to a jury. Both sides agreed to use standard jury instructions related to the defendant’s defense of justifiable use of deadly force. The instruction was that it would be a defense to the offense with which the defendant was charged if the death resulted from his justifiable use of deadly force, and that using deadly force would be justifiable only where a defendant reasonably believes the force is needed to stop imminent death or great bodily harm to himself while resisting someone else’s effort to murder him or an attempt to perpetrate aggravated battery on someone 65-years-old or older or aggravated battery on that person.

Using deadly force isn’t justifiable where it’s found the defendant initially provoked a use of force against himself except (1) where the force was so great the defendant had a reasonable belief he was in imminent risk of death or (2) the defendant withdrew from physical conduct and clearly indicated he wanted to withdraw and stop the use force but the victim continued. The jury is supposed to judge the defendant by the context. If a defendant isn’t involved in an illegal activity and had a right to be in that place, he doesn’t have a duty to retreat and is entitled to stand his ground. He can meet force with force, so long it’s to stop death or great bodily harm on himself or to stop the commission of a forcible felony.

During his closing statement, the prosecutor pointed out that the moment he showed the gun to the victim and swore at him, he’d committed the crime of improper exhibition of a weapon. The jury found the defendant guilty of these three counts.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the jury had been given a fundamentally erroneous instruction about the defendant’s Stand Your Ground defense under Florida Statutes sections 776.012 and 776.013(3). The prosecutor agreed there was an error on the issue, but then filed a motion for rehearing that withdrew the initial concession. The defendant claimed the instruction was fundamental error because the prosecutor had emphasized the issue of whether he was involved in unlawful activity. The defendant argued that limit might be relevant to section 776.013(3), but didn’t apply to section 776.012(1). Accordingly, the jury was improperly instructed that if he’d illegally shown his pistol, he couldn’t use any of the Stand Your Ground defense.

The appellate court agreed with the defendant that there was fundamental error in the instructions given to the jury about the defense to the manslaughter and open display of a firearm. 776.013(1) won’t apply where somebody is involved in illegal activity based on a use of force that’s allowed under section 776.013(3). In this case, there was nothing used to show the jury there was a distinction between section 776.012(1) and 776.013(3). Instead the jury was left to believe, based on the instruction, the defendant’s right to stand his ground was, in every case, based on whether he’d been involved in illegal activity. On that basis, the appellate court sent his case back for a new trial.

However, the appellate court didn’t think the error affected his conviction for improper exhibition of a weapon. The conviction was affirmed on that count.

If you’re charged with a firearms or weapons offense in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in Broward County, it is crucial to hire knowledgeable counsel who can mount a strong defense. Call The Hoffman Firm at (954) 524-4474 or (800) 223-1866, or contact us via our online form.

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