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Florida Legislature Battle with Courts Continues on "Stand Your Ground"

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In 2005, the Florida legislature passed a bill that returned Florida to the majority position in the United States on Self Defense. 35 States have adopted stand-your-ground statutes or follow the principle by precedent.

In Florida, person facing unlawful deadly force or significant bodily harm was no longer required to retreat before defending themselves in public places.  The Florida law required the prosecution to prove that the defendant did not act in self defense in a pre-trial hearing, if the defendant claimed self defense and invoked the stand-your-ground immunity.  In 2008, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the burden of proof.  From

At the hearing, the trial court must weigh and decide factual disputes as to the defendant’s use of force to determine whether to dismiss the case based on the immunity. Peterson v. State, 983 So.2d 27, 29 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008). The defendant bears the burden of proof on the issue of whether the “stand your ground” or “castle doctrine” immunity attaches to his or her actions. Id.

There have been several attempts in the Florida state legislature to return to the original legislative intent. The latest version appears to have a good chance of passage.  From

TALLAHASSEE — A move to shift the burden of proof in “stand your ground” self-defense cases is off to a fast start in the House, where the controversial proposal died a year ago.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted 9-4 along party lines Wednesday to approve the National Rifle Association-backed measure (HB 245), which would shift the burden of proof from defendants to prosecutors during pre-trial hearings in “stand your ground” cases.

The law is meant to shield defendants who use force in self defense from being destroyed by the system. Prosecutors have very high levels of immunity. Prosecutors can destroy a defendants life, even though the facts of self defense are clear at the time.

The proposed change is supported by the Florida Public Defender Association.

It is opposed by state prosecutors.

The most famous case where Stand-your-ground immunity was used is that of Gabriel Mobley.  In the Mobley case, the attack and defense were captured on video.  The prosecution and local court refused to grant Stand-Your-Ground immunity.  The appeals court disagreed, and ordered that immunity be granted. The prosecutors appealed, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.  The process took six years.

In Florida, black defendants use the law twice as often as their percentage of the population would indicate.  Black crime victims and perpetrators are several times as common as those in white and Hispanic populations.

The best explanation of the history of Stand-Your-Ground laws has been done by Clayton CramerHis paper focuses on Texas, but provides an excellent historical overview.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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