Governor Scott Approves Changes to ‘Stand Your Ground’ law
Last week, Gov. Rick Scott approved a measure that expands protections for self-defense homicide cases under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Senate Bill 128, which shifts the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecution, was affirmed by an overwhelming majority of the House in April and a vote of 22-14 in the Senate last month.
The law states that during Stand Your Ground immunity hearings, the prosecution will now have the responsibility of proving whether or not the act was truly committed in self-defense before continuing to trial.
Senate President Joe Negron is in strong support of the new law. He believes that the burden of proof should be carried out at each part of the criminal justice process. He also feels that for a case to overcome an immunity claim, the state must use convincing evidence to do so.
The “Stand Your Ground Law” was passed in 2005 and gave citizens the right to stand their ground and protect themselves if attacked. Prior to SB 128, if you committed an act in self-defense, you had to prove your innocence to the prosecution at a special stand your ground immunity hearing. Prosecutors would then decide whether to release you or charge you and move to trial. However, Senate Bill 128 took effect immediately with the Governors approval and reversed that process. In order for a case to move to trial, prosecutors are now responsible for providing probable cause using “clear and convincing” evidence.
Conservatives across the state are fully backing the Governors decision, arguing that the original law did not safeguard important self-defense rights. Despite strong support from many Floridians, some are against the changes. Lucy McBath’s 17-year old son was shot and killed during a dispute over loud music. The shooter was found guilty of murder and since then McBath has been an outgoing challenger of stand your ground policies. She feels the Governor should be ashamed for signing this bill on the day that he just declared as Pulse Memorial Day.
Whether it’s the defendant trying to prove innocence or the prosecution trying to prove guilt, both sides can agree that self-defense is often difficult to prove. To determine if criminal charges apply, you must review all the facts and parse over every single detail of the case, but even then there is room for error. Because of this, stand your ground will likely always be the type of law that raises controversy in the years to come.