Florida Castle Doctrine Cases
There is an exception to this common law duty to retreat "to the wall," which applies when an individual claims self-defense in his or her own residence. See 172 So. 2d at 827; Pell v. State, 97 Fla. 650, 665, 122 So. 110, 116 (1929); Danford v. State, 53 Fla. 4, 13, 43 So. 593, 597 (1907).
An individual is not required to retreat from the residence before resorting to deadly force in self-defense, so long as the deadly force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. See Hedges, 172 So. 2d at 827; Pell, 97 Fla. at 665, 122 So. at 116; Danford, 53 Fla. at 13, 43 So. at 597.
The privilege of nonretreat from the home, part of the "castle doctrine," has early common law origins. See Bobbitt, 415 So. 2d at 725; Hedges, 172 So. 2d at 827; Pell, 97 Fla. at 665, 122 So. at 116; Danford, 53 Fla. at 13, 43 So. at 597; New York v. Tomlins, 213 N.Y. 240, 107 N.E. 496, 497-98 (N.Y. 1914).
The "castle doctrine" has also been defined as including:
the proposition that a person's dwelling house is a castle of defense for himself and his family, and an assault on it with intent to injure him or any lawful inmate of it may justify the use of force as protection, and even deadly force if there exist reasonable and factual grounds to believe that unless so used, a felony would be committed. Falco v. State, 407 So. 2d 203, 208 (Fla. 1981).
In New York v. Tomlins, the defendant claimed self-defense when attacked in his home by his son. 107 N.E. at 496. In reversing the defendant's conviction because the duty to retreat instruction was given, Justice Cardozo explained the historical basis of the privilege of nonretreat from the home:
It is not now and never has been the law that a man assailed in his own dwelling is bound to retreat. If assailed there, he may stand his ground and resist the attack. He is under no duty to take to the fields and the highways, a fugitive from his own home. More than 200 years ago it was said by Lord Chief Justice Hale: In case a man "is assailed in his own house, he need not flee as far as he can, as in other cases of se defendendo, for he hath the protection of his house to excuse him from flying, as that would be to give up the protection of his house to his adversary by flight." Flight is for sanctuary and shelter, and shelter, if not sanctuary, is in the home. . . . The rule is the same whether the attack proceeds from some other occupant or from an intruder. (107 N.E. at 497-98.)