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Florida Police Officers Use "Stand Your Ground" to Seek Protection

The decision to allow police officers to use the state's "stand your ground" law as a defense in certain situations may be heading to the Florida Supreme Court. The law, originally enacted in 2005, was created as a way to allow residents to defend themselves with deadly force without fear of arrest or trial. Since its inception, the law has remained controversial, and it is even more so when law enforcement uses it as a defense in cases when deadly force is used.

Stand Your Ground Defense

This law eliminates a person's duty to retreat from a dangerous situation, and allows him or her to use deadly force if they are in fear that their life, or the life of someone else is in imminent danger. If invoked as a defense, the law protects someone from criminal charges as well as a civil lawsuit.

The defense in a case may request that a judge review the case using Stand Your Ground in order for the charges to be dismissed prior to a trial.

As a Law Enforcement Defense

Some police officers across the state have used Stand Your Ground as a defense in cases where they have used deadly force in alleged self-defense. Out of the two dozen states across the country that have a similar law protecting deadly force to save a life, Florida is the only state where law enforcement has attempted to use the same law in cases where they are charged with a crime such as manslaughter.

The argument that lawyers for law enforcement have used in order to utilize this law for a defense is that the law says that it applies to "any person," and a police officer fits that criterion. In some cases where law enforcement has tried to use the law to avoid a trial, judges have granted the request and the officers were successful in avoiding charges and a trial.

Potential Case to Head to Supreme Court

One case may be heard by the Florida Supreme Court, which would decide once and for all if police officers can also use the Stand Your Ground defense in cases. The case involves a Broward County Sheriff's officer and the shooting death of Jermaine McBean.

According to reports, McBean was wearing ear buds and walking with an air rifle over his shoulder. He was instructed by the officer to drop the weapon, and when he did not, the officer alleges that McBean pointed the air rifle at him and fellow officers. The officer shot and killed McBean in self-defense, but he is now charged with manslaughter.

A judge and Florida appeals court have found that the Stand Your Ground law is applicable in this situation and it protects the officer from prosecution. However, Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has reviewed the case and weighed in saying that the officer shouldn't have used this law as a defense. Her reasoning is that police are given qualified immunity rather than absolute immunity, and they shouldn't be able to choose between two different types of defenses.

The Attorney General has asked the Florida Supreme Court to review the case. It is not clear if the Supreme Court will take on the case just yet.

Stand Your Ground can be a valid defense for a situation where deadly force is used when a life is threatened. In any case where deadly force was used when in fear of your life, it's important to contact a criminal defense attorney who can help you work through the defense in your case.

References:

Exclusive: 'Stand Your Ground' Battle For Law Enforcement Could Head To Florida Supreme Court. (2018, January 26). Retrieved February 01, 2018, from http://miami.cbslocal.com/2018/01/26/stand-your-ground-cops-case/

Robles, F. (2018, January 28). Officers in Florida Shootings Say They Can Stand Their Ground, Too. Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/28/us/florida-police-shootings-defense.html

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