Among stand your ground laws and other self-defense statutes, Florida’s is unique insofar as it makes it very difficult to prosecute a defendant who raises a stand your ground defense. Recent amendments to the law force the prosecution to prove that the defendant’s stand your ground defense is false. Beforehand, it was up to the defendant to prove that stand your ground applied because they were in mortal fear of their lives. By shifting the burden of proof, the law made it much more difficult to get a conviction when a stand your ground defense was raised.
Stand Your Ground and Police Officers
In a recent ruling, the Florida Supreme Court extended stand your ground protection to officers of the law. While it was difficult before to get convictions against police officers, it may now be impossible. The use of deadly force can be justified in almost any situation in which there is an interaction with an alleged criminal. If the individual runs, they may be running for a weapon. If the individual moves, they may be reaching for a weapon. If the individual is confused about what is happening, mentally ill, dead, or has a developmental disability, they can be shot without repercussion. They can be exonerated without facing a jury of their peers.
The inherent problem is obvious. How do we, as a community, hold bad cops responsible for hair-trigger responses to easily containable situations?
The Men at the Center of the Landmark Decision
Thursday’s decision was indeed a landmark ruling. It was the first time that stand your ground had been used to defend a police officer acting in the line of duty. The case involved Jermaine McBean, a 33-year-old computer engineer with a history of mental health issues and a sheriff’s deputy, Peter Paraza. McBean entered the apartment complex in which he lived with an air rifle slung over his shoulders. According to neighbors, he was telling to himself. They called police. Police responded on the scene and order McBean to drop his weapon. McBean, who had earbuds in his ears, turned around. Peraza fired, killing McBean.
In the criminal suit that followed, Peraza’s attorney raised a stand your ground defense. Peraza claimed that McBean “pointed his weapon” but witnesses contradicted that statement. The other two officers on the scene did not fire on McBean. During his indictment, Peraza asked for stand your ground protection and won. The state, in response, appealed the ruling. The case eventually went before the Florida Supreme Court where it was decided that stand your ground protections do apply to law enforcement.
By invoking stand your ground, it forces jurors to surmise the state of mind of the defendant. Not only does stand your ground give a shooter, be they police officer or not, immunity from prosecution, it also shields them from civil liability if the family of the victim attempts to sue.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a crime, the Skier Law Firm P.A. in West Palm Beach can help. We’ve defended folks charged with routine DUI and taken high-profile murder cases. Give us a call or talk to us online to set up an appointment.