The controversial Stand Your Ground law in the state of Florida is set to go through some changes as soon as both chambers of the Florida legislature agree on language that would shift the pre-trial burden of proof in these cases. These changes may have a significant effect on the way that the “stand your ground” defense is considered for immunity in a court of law. To understand how the changes will affect the current law, it’s important to take a look at the history of the law and how it is proposed to change.
What is Stand Your Ground?
The Stand Your Ground defense is a justification in criminal defense cases that says that people are allowed to use deadly force and do not have a duty to retreat against perceived threats if they think it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
The Stand Your Ground law is based on something called the Castle Doctrine, which is a legal precedent that states that if someone is threatened in their own home, they do not have a duty to retreat.
2005 Stand Your Ground Law
In 2005, the state codified the Castle Doctrine for the first time. Prior to this time, it was only common law. However, in 2005, Stand Your Ground was written into state law, and provided a defense if deadly force was used in someone’s own dwelling against a perpetrator who unlawfully entered presumably with the intent to harm.
2014 Stand Your Ground Law
In 2014, the law was amended to say that the defender had to be in fear of imminent attack before he/she could use deadly force. The Florida Supreme Court majority opinion was that immunity was not a blanket right in these cases, but required establishment that the use of force was legally justified.
2017 Stand Your Ground Proposal
In 2017, the two Florida legislative chambers have approved different versions of a proposal to amend the Stand Your Ground law, but they must come to an agreement on language before the proposal will pass and become law. Both chambers are shifting the burden of proof away from the defense to prove immunity and to the prosecutors to overcome the asserted immunity in these cases. The argument in changing the law is that the government should have the burden of proof at every stage of these types of cases if they are pursuing criminal charges.
House and Senate Differences
Both chambers seek to raise the standard of proof on the prosecution, but at slightly different degrees. The Florida House’s proposal says that prosecutors must overcome the defense’s asserted immunity by “clear and convincing evidence,” while the Florida Senate’s proposal sets a higher standard and requires that prosecutors prove with near certainty that there is guilt by proving “beyond a reasonable doubt” that immunity should not be granted.
As with many laws related to criminal charges, the Florida state law of Stand Your Ground has gone through several changes over the years. In any case where you are being accused of a crime, including a case where the crime may have occurred in your home, it’s critically important that you contact a criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the laws and potential defenses for your case.
DAN SULLIVAN Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer. (n.d.). How might ‘Stand Your Ground’ changes have affected the theater shooting case? Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article143001754.html
Florida, T. N. (n.d.). House, Senate At Odds Over ‘Stand Your Ground’ Change. Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/house-senate-odds-over-stand-your-ground-change#stream/0