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Sammis Law Firm

Florida Independent Act Doctrine

Under Florida law, the independent act defense could be asserted when a defendant and co-defendant have a common plan to commit a crime, but then the co-defendant commits some criminal act outside of the criminal plan, and that act could not have been reasonably anticipated by the defendant.

Contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm to find out more about how the independent act defense can be used for any criminal case in Florida, including Hillsborough County, Polk County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Manatee County, Sarasota County, and Hernando County, FL.

What is the Independent Act Doctrine?

The Florida Courts have found that the “independent act” must fall outside of and be foreign to the original plan. When the defendant can make a preliminary showing that the co-defendant’s act is outside the criminal plan and could not have been anticipated, the defendant is exonerated from any punishment for the crime that occurred because of the independent act. The defendant must show that he did not intend the act to occur, he did not participate in the act, the act was not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the common plan.

Limitations on the Independent Act Doctrine

The “independent act” doctrine arises when one codefendant, who previously participated in a common plan, does not participate in acts committed by his codefendant, “which fall outside of, and are foreign to, the common design of the original collaboration.”

Under these limited circumstances, a defendant whose codefendant exceeds the scope of the original plan is exonerated from any punishment imposed as a result of the independent act. Where, however, the defendant was a willing participant in the underlying felony and the harm resulted from forces which they set in motion, no independent act instruction is appropriate. See Ray v. State, 755 So. 2d 604, 609 (Fla. 2000)(citations omitted).


At the Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys strive to stay abreast of any changes under Florida law to possible criminal defense that can be used in a motion to dismiss, motion to suppress or at trial. Visit our information center on other possible criminal defenses available under Florida law.

Information Center on Criminal Defenses Under Florida Law

Voluntary Abandonment – When the defendant and co-defendant begin with a common plan, but then the defendant attempts to abandon the criminal plan, this defense may bar prosecution or provide an important defense at trial that may exonerate the defendant of any criminal liability.

Entrapment – When the defendant is tricked into committing a crime that he is not otherwise ready to commit, then the entrapment defense may bar prosecution of the crime or provide a defense at trial.

Deadly Force in Self- Defense – When deadly force is used in self-defense or to protect another, the defendant’s acts may be excused.

Non-deadly Force in Self-Defense  – Self-defense using non-deadly force can include defense of others or even defense of property from criminal mischief or trespass.

Police Misconduct – If the police used excessive force or violated the law in any other respect, that fact can be relevant to defending the case and may show bias and motive for the officer to lie or fabricate evidence.

Florida Right to a Speedy Trial – Discusses the rules surrounding Florida’s speedy trial rights, including filing a demand for speedy trial or notice of expiration of speedy trial.

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