Florida Senate Approves ‘Stand Your Ground’ Changes

L-R, Stand Your Ground task force member Rev. R.B. Holmes, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and former National Rifle Association President Marion Hammer talk prior to a committee meeting Monday. Photo: Bill Cotterell
L-R, Stand Your Ground task force member Rev. R.B. Holmes, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and former National Rifle Association President Marion Hammer talk prior to a committee meeting Monday. Photo: Bill Cotterell

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously to write some restrictions into Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law Monday, with bipartisan support of two senators who were on opposite sides when the 2005 statute passed.

Even the National Rifle Association, which championed the law removing the prior requirement that citizens seek safety first in a dangerous situation, endorsed the compromise by Sens. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale. The proposal was prompted by the slaying of teen-ager Trayvon Martin in Sanford and the acquittal last year of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who said he feared for his life when he shot the black youth.

The proposal (CS/SB 120 & 133) makes four major changes in the Stand Your Ground law:

— It requires city and county police agencies to issue operating guidelines for neighborhood crime watch organizations, specifically forbidding participants to confront or attempt to detain someone they consider suspicious.

— It requires police to thoroughly investigate claims of self-defense and denies immunity from prosecution for anyone found to be the aggressor in an incident.

— It puts the burden of proof on prosecutors to show that a person claiming immunity was not entitled to it. A 2010 court ruling required defendants to prove in pre-trial hearings that they qualified for Stand Your Ground protection.

— It allows civil liability for lawsuits by third parties wounded by a person in a self-defense situation.

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Source: The Florida Current | Bill Cotterell

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