Florida revisiting ‘stand your ground’ law

stand your ground(Updated April 6 at 7:50 am MT)

Belatedly, the state of Florida, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, is starting to question its “Stand Your Ground” law and lawmakers today convened a task force to re-examine it. Task force members include prosecutors, law enforcement officials, public defenders, judges, law professors, and state tourism officials. It’s too late for Trayvon Martin and many other homicide victims in the state, but something is better than nothing.

What ever happened to the basic right of self-defense? Self-defense is a valid defense in any court. It didn’t need to be reinforced with Stand Your Ground and Make My Day (“castle doctrine“) laws, despite the nationwide efforts of the National Rifle Association to get such laws implemented. It’s one thing to promote laws that permit the carrying of firearms and quite another to loosen the constraints on homicide.

At least Oklahoma’s Make My Day law came with the widespread word-of-mouth caution: If you shoot someone outside your house, you’d better drag them inside before you call the police. Florida’s law seems to have been interpreted so loosely as to allow and encourage citizens in any public place to become both provocateurs and executioners.

(Full text of the Florida statute)

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Related article on Pied Type

From Florida



Categories: Election 2012, guns, Law

27 replies

  1. I think “stand your ground” was created for valid reasons (although I think we need stricter gun laws). But anyway… the wording may have been written too loosely – I haven’t actually read the law myself. If anything, this should be much more specific, such as must be on your own property, defending your home, property, etc. But anyone found to be in pursuit of another then shooting them, even if the person they were pursuing turns and attacks, then “stand your ground” should not be valid. The moment someone starts pursuing another is the moment they became the aggressor, not the defendant standing their ground.

    • Absolutely; pursuing makes you the aggressor. A carefully written statute like this should, in my opinion, make it very clear that the law applies only if the ground you are defending is yours.

      I’ve added a link to the Florida statute at the end of the post. Sorry, I had it in there originally.

      • Thanks, I missed it then. I’ll check it out.

      • Amazing how Zimmerman’s story perfectly fits “776.041 Use of force by aggressor.” such that he can still use this law to cover his ass. I don’t like “776.041 Use of force by aggressor.” I think that he should go to trial and let a jury decide if he falls under the “stand your ground” law or not. The police dept and whoever else involved should not be the ones to make this decision.

        • As I see it, that’s the problem with most of these laws. They confer immunity from prosecution. The shooter never has to go to court and prove the shooting was justified. The facts never get reviewed and are never officially determined.

        • Based on this ‘logic’ everyone accused of anything would go to trial whether there was any probable cause or not. Perhaps someday you will be in the wrong place at the wrong time and charged according to your ‘logic’. After you run through $100K+ to defend yourself from a charge that should never have been brought to begin with you can congratulate yourself on how well your method works.

          • I didn’t say everyone should go to trial. I said immunity should not be automatic.

            • When any human life has been taken by gunshot – or knife – or a brick, but especially by a gun, there should be a trial. All evidence should be gathered, analyzed, etc. Even if it’s a short trial just in front of the judge and no jury. By letting people walk away from killing another one, we will return to the days of the old wild west where the gun was the law.

              • I wouldn’t go so far as to call for a trial every time. For a trial, there has to be an actual charge against someone. In the case of a homeowner or shopkeeper shooting an intruder, for example, I would not expect a trial if the investigating officers think the facts are obvious. In cases like this, castle doctrine laws are appropriate and usually prevail.

                My problem with “stand your ground” laws is they extend this assumption of innocence to any public place. That means both the shooter and the victim have a right to be there. There’s no breaking and entering, no private property or home to defend. IMO this is much too ambiguous a situation to declare, as SYG laws do, that the shooter claiming self-defense in fear of “imminent death or great bodily harm” is automatically immune to prosecution. There should be an investigation and, if it appears the shooting was negligence or criminality, charges should be filed and a trial conducted in order to ascertain the facts and whether the shooter is guilty or innocent of the charges.

                Zimmerman’s situation is a good example this ambiguity in public places. It was dark and no one actually saw what happened. There’s lots of evidence, little of it conclusive on its own, and a trial is in order to determine what happened. It’s my understanding that but for the SYG law, Zimmerman would have been arrested that night. As it turns out, the law actually has worked against him. It allowed him to walk away from a situation that should have been thoroughly investigated at the time. Now so much time has passed and there has been so much speculation and publicity that his chances of getting a fair trial have been greatly reduced.

                • Well, perhaps not go to trial each time, but some sort of formality must be involved with every shooting. Doing what they did with Zimmerman just is not right, especially when considering the victim’s family. Zim just walked away and this should NEVER occur when a life has been taken. Never.

                  Oh, there are people who don’t know the story at all… I found this out last week. A co-worker had NO idea what I was talking about. But to find them would be a very difficult task. And yes, this does hurt Zimmerman’s case for a fair trial. But the Martin’s have been hurt, too, because so much of the evidence which should have been gathered immediately wasn’t, and is now gone forever.

                  I just feel strongly that anyone should be allowed to walk away from killing someone. We’ll turn into the old west if this starts happening. No, trial isn’t always necessary, but something beyond what they did in Zimmer’s case is.

                  • I’m still not sure I’d insist on a hearing for a homeowner who has shot an intruder in her bedroom. But it couldn’t hurt. We should put at least as much value on human life as we do on someone’s right to use a gun.

                    • I just think about the victim’s family. Even if I had a family member be a complete idiot and break into someone’s home and shot dead, I know they were doing wrong. Well, bad scenario… I’m not sure shooting a breaking and entering is justifiable if the homeowner’s life wasn’t threatened. Sooo… okay. Here… my family idiot hits an old woman over the head to steal her purse. Granny is packing (go Granny!) and shots and kills the perp. Very justifiable. But that’s someone in my family. Even though I may agree they got what they deserved, I would prefer that at least the paperwork, testimony, etc all goes in front of someone official, i.e. a judge, and someone within the legal field signs off as properly used SYG law and all is done.

                      I just don’t like the fact the police made this decision as it was not a very wise one, and done rather in the heat of the moment and really without thinking.

          • Oh, yeah… and before I pull a trigger on a gun I have pointed at a human, I completely expect to have to defend myself. Best to think of the consequences before one does the action.

            Zimmerman had absolutely NO right to pursue (or follow, or stroll) ofter the kid especially when the police told him not to. At that point, Zimmerman because the pursuer. He is a cop wanna-be and wanted to be the “big hero” so he could tell everyone that he “saved the complex from a punk “n-ggr” robber.” He chose very poorly. He has lied about the fight which ensued, which is VERY evident by the video at the police station. Head wounds bleed profusely, and if his head was banged on the ground as badly as he states, then you would either be able to clearly see this in the video, or the EMT’s would have bandaged his head. There is neither of the like.

            Okay… I’m stopping suddenly now. I just have to remind myself from time to time that some people just cannot see outside their world. You’ll always think Zim was right. I’m not going to try to fight a brick wall any longer now….

            Sorry, PT I’ve rather cluttered up your post/comments. I need a smoke now….

    • If you haven’t even bothered to read the law yourself, then why do you feel qualified to comment on the wording you haven’t read? Also, following someone and observing them is not pursuing them, does not make one the agressor, and does not justify aggravated battery.

      • And how is “following” not “pursuing”?

      • And, pray tell, how are you assuming that PT and I have not read the law? Oh, please, go on. This could be an interesting answer. I can tell you right now that both PT and I read before we publish. And here are the online definitions of “following” and “pursuing”:

        following
        Coming after or as a result of.

        pursuing
        Follow (someone or something) to catch or attack them

        Hmmmmm…. looks like they’re the same thing to me. And honestly, semantics don’t change the facts. You can say Zimmerman strolled, but he strolled in pursuit of a kid that was doing NOTHING wrong – unless Florida now considers walking through an apt complex as illegal.

  2. And we can’t forget the Beatles…

  3. Typical claims from someone who appears to have never even read the law. The statute reads in part:

    “776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

    (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
    (2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013. ”

    (776.013 applies to home defense and is not applicable to the Martin shooting or other incidents in public places)

    You cannot prevail under this statute for a shooting in a public place without having been in fear of “imminent death or great bodily harm ”

    Period.

    Further, the statute provides:

    776.041 Use of force by aggressor. —The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:

    (1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or

    (2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:

    (a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
    (b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force. ”

    It’s clear from ACTUALLY READING the law that the criticisms of it are unfounded.

    • Typical comment from someone who appears to have never even read the post, which contains a link to the entire statute so that everyone can read it and draw their own conclusions. (And yes, I read it.) I repeat my assertion that this law was unnecessary; self-defense was and is a perfectly valid defense without this law. The fact that a task force (the subject of this post) has been organized to study it indicates that a lot of people in Florida also question it.

"It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races." ~ Mark Twain

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