PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — In 2005, the Florida legislature expanded the rules around self-defense with the Stand-Your-Ground Law. It provides immunity to some people who use a firearm to protect themselves.

A murder and a justified killing are two very different things under the law.

Bob Sombathy is a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. He said defendants often claim to stand their ground after a fatal encounter.

“It is by far the most cases I’ve tried in front of a jury involve self-defense or claim of self-defense and it has had the most success in all my trials,” Sombathy said.

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors examine each incident to determine if a case can be self-defense.

“The State Attorney’s Office has to turn around and prove it was not self-defense and their burden is they have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that it’s not self-defense,” criminal defense attorney Waylon Graham said. “If they fail in that effort, then the judge throws them out of court and lets you go.”

Both attorneys said it is not difficult when given all the details to determine self-defense.

“It’s based on a reasonable belief that you’re in grave danger in death or imminent bodily injury is on the horizon imminently,” Graham said.

“Someone is in a place they have a right to be and they’re not engaged in criminal activity, if they are threatened and feel the need to defend themselves, even with deadly force, they can do that,” Sombathy said.

On January 10th, a Bay County homeowner shot and killed an intruder in his home following an altercation. One day later a man was shooting at the entrance of a gentleman’s nightclub in Panama City.

Another patron fired shots back and killed him. Both incidents were deemed self-defense.

“There is a presumption that your fear is reasonable as far as fear of someone hurting you and if someone enters your home illegally and forcefully,” Sombathy said. “It’s also assumed they’re there to do you harm so in those types of cases when you’re in your own home, those are usually the clearest cases for self-defense.”

But Sombathy implores people to think before pulling the trigger.

“It has to be crystal clear that you were engaging in legitimate self-defense or the judge will deny your motion for the charge to be dismissed, and then you will have to proceed to trial and the moral of that story is this you better know for darn sure if you pull a gun out and wave it around or for heaven’s sake, you shoot somebody,” Graham said. “You better be right because if you miscalculate, you could be in for a real tragedy.”

According to a study between 1999 to 2017, there was an 8 to 10% increase in monthly rates of shooting homicides in states with a Stand-Your-Ground Law. In Florida, those rates reached higher than 10%.