Scared Woman

When is an Action “Imminent” Under Florida Law?

By David S. Katz

When does someone have a reasonable belief that they must use force in order to protect themselves from an “imminent use of unlawful force” by another? In Florida, the decision will be ultimately decided by a jury.  Let’s focus on the word “imminent.” Florida courts have said that imminent means an act that is about to happen immediately. Gaffney v. State, 742 So.2d 358 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999).  It is not something that will happen in the next hour, next week, or even next month. It is an action that will be made within the next few seconds. A jury is tasked in deciding whether your use of force was used to prevent another’s imminent use of unlawful force. You must be protecting yourself from an act that is seconds away from happening.

A conditional threat such as, “If you call my sister again, I’ll kill you!” is not imminent because it has to do with an act that must be taken in the future. Since “I’ll kill you!” is something that will happen in the future (not immediately) and it is conditional upon you making another call to the sister of the person threatening, it is not imminent. Therefore, it is unlikely that a person will be justified in using force against this particular threat since it lacks imminence.


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