Potential Changes to Stand Your Ground: Shift of Burden of Proof

A retired Tampa police captain allegedly shot and killed another man in a movie theater during an argument in 2014. The retired police officer told the other man to put away his cell phone during the movie, at which point the man threw popcorn at him. The defendant then fatally shot him. The defendant’s attorney is calling for Florida’s stand your ground law to be invoked, which would erase any wrongdoing on behalf of the defendant, according to ABC News. A judge will make the decision in the coming days, which will determine whether he goes free or is charged with second degree murder, a crime that is punishable as a first degree felony and up to 30 years in prison. However, changes to the law may be coming soon, which could have an affect on future similar scenarios.

Background On Stand Your Ground

Before stand your ground was signed into law by then Governor Jeb Bush, it was unlawful to kill another person in self defense before attempting to make a retreat. Stand your ground made it legal to use deadly force when a person reasonably believed that they were in threat of serious bodily injury or death, and to use that deadly force without backing down or making an effort to leave the confrontation. Since Florida lawmakers signed the bill, which was heavily supported by the National Rifle Association, into law in 2005, 22 other states have followed its footsteps, making it legal to use deadly force without making an attempt to flee the situation.

Shift in Burden of Proof

As the law currently stands, the burden of proof rests with the defendant in pretrial hearings for stand your ground cases. However, House Bill 245, which passed through the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee in a nine to four Republican-leed vote, could change that, as reported in the Orlando Weekly. The bill, if signed into law, would shift the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecution. This means that the prosecution will have to prove that the use of deadly self defense was not justified, as opposed to the defendant proving that it was.

Opponents and Proponents of the Bill

According to Representative Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, the bill would only strengthen the function of the stand your ground law, which is to provide immunity to citizens who are in the right to use lethal self-defense, and that the law would “not protect those that are creating some type of felony or assault.That is not what self-defense is for.” However, critics of the bill cite the fact that the stand your ground law has lead to a disproportionate number of fatal shootings in which African-Americans are killed by white shooters, who are not charged with any wrongdoing. Representative Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, said that the law would be a “blanket immunity” for defendants claiming their right to use the stand your ground law.

Call a West Palm Beach Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime or have had to use lethal self defense in order to protect yourself and your family, call the West Palm Beach Skier Law Firm today at (561) 820-1508.

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