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Is It Legal to Defend Your Business from Looters In Florida?

August 05, 20216 min read

What Would You Do?

What's Up Sheepdogs? Ryan here with Tampa Carry.

In April of 1992, violent riots erupted in Los Angeles following the acquittal of four LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King. 

For six days, thousands of people rioted in streets. Violence, chaos, arson, and destruction were the norm for six long days. 

An area known as Koreatown was the area most affected by the violence. This forced Korean-American business owners to defend their livelihoods from looters. They couldn't afford to allow these evil people to destroy everything that they had, and the police were nowhere to be found. So, they had to take action for themselves.

Many of these Korean Americans can be seen with rifles, shotguns, and pistols, guarding and protecting their businesses. Some of these individuals got into some really epic gunfights.

In May of 2020, rioting began here in Tampa, FL, forcing several of my future students to defend their businesses with just their fists, baseball bats, and pocketknives. 

One of these students was Ahmad, whose family owns a jewelry store in Tampa. When Ahmad received word that people were rioting near his business, he and several family members rushed to the store in a desperate attempt to defend the family’s primary source of income. 

What are Ahmad and his family legally allowed to do to protect their business? Let's ask the big questions. 

The Big Questions

How Could This Situation be Avoided? 

Ahmad and his family could always stay at home and hope their business survives the chaos. But that’s easier said than done. Personally, I know how hard it is to build a successful business, and I would not allow anyone to destroy my business without a fight. 

What Level of Force Can be Used?  

The question is what level of force are we allowed to use to protect our business or personal property from looters?

Using or threatening to use force to defend property can be found in Florida Statute 776.031(1). Here's what it says:

Florida Statutes 776.031(1) A person is justified in using or threatening to use force except deadly force against another when, and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the others trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with either a real property, other than a dwelling or personal property lawfully in his or her possession or in the possession of another, who is a member of his or her immediate family or household, or of a person whose property he or she has a legal duty to protect. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with the subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.

According to this statute, before you have a legal right to use or threaten the use of non-deadly force, you first have to make sure that you actually have a legal right to protect the property. This means you are the owner of the property, an immediate family member, or have a legal duty to protect said property. However, this statute only grants an individual the right to use non-deadly force to defend personal property, not deadly force.

There are some situations where we are legally allowed to use deadly force to protect personal property. These can be found in Florida Statute 776.031(2). Here's what it says:

Florida Statute 776.031(2) A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground. If the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

This statute outlines several critical factors that must be met before you would be allowed to use or threaten the use of deadly force. 

First, you must reasonably believe that the use of deadly force is necessary. In chapter 10, we discussed that a reasonable belief must be applied objectively and subjectively. This means not only do you have to believe that the use or threatened use of deadly force was your only option, but a jury would have to agree with you. 

Second, your use or threatened use of deadly force must be intended to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A complete list of forcible felonies is listed below. 

Florida Statutes 776.08 —“Forcible felony” means treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.

The third requirement is that you cannot be engaged in criminal activity. 

Finally, you must be in a place where you have a right to be. 

Let's apply these four requirements to Ahmad’s story to see if he has a right to use or threaten deadly force to defend his business.  

Does Ahmad reasonably believe that the use of deadly force is necessary? I don’t think so. Ahmad’s business was surrounded by people. The Champs Sports was on fire, and several other businesses were actively being looted. As Ahmad and his family were standing inside their business, I’m sure they were scared, but I don’t think their only option was to shoot. 

Is Ahmad attempting to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony? In this situation, only two forcible felonies stand out to me, and these are burglary and arson. 

Burglary 810.02 (1)(a)means entering or remaining in a dwelling, a structure or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter or remain.

Arson F.S. 806.01 (1) Any person who willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, by fire or explosion, damages or causes to be damaged: (a) Any dwelling, whether occupied or not, or its contents; (b) Any structure …

Is Ahmad in a place that he has a right to be? Yes, this is a family-owned business. 

Is Ahmad engaged in criminal activity? Not that I am aware of.

Unfortunately, I’m unsure how a court would rule on the use or threatened use of deadly force to prevent looting with the way the statutes are written today. 

Recently, Florida Governor Ron Desantis proposed a bill that would expand upon the list of forcible felonies to include looting within 500 of a violent assembly. If this proposal becomes law, it would allow business owners to use or threaten the use of deadly force against looters. Personally, I think this would send a powerful message to everyone in the state of Florida and stop the future destruction of our communities. 

That's all I have for today. So until next time keep training and stay safe...

Ryan G. Thomas

P.S. You’re one step away from getting your Florida concealed carry permit….FAST & EASY…

And for a limited time you can watch the concealed carry course online for free... Click here to get started...

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Ryan G. Thomas

Ryan believes a trained and aware citizen is the best way to minimize crime, victims and senseless acts of violence. Ryan is a veteran of the United States Air Force and a father of three beautiful children. Ryan and his wife Tiffany met while doing inner city ministry for Operation Explosion in Tampa 12 years ago. He is passionate about God, his family, and his community. Ryan has a passion for the 2nd amendment and believes all Americans should have the right and ability to protect themselves and their families.

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