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Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Ruled Unconstitutional
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stand your ground

Summary: A Florida judge ruled the state’s updated “stand your ground” law as unconstitutional as the case heads up the legal ladder.

Florida recently updated its “stand your ground” law but a judge has declared it as unconstitutional. The law required prosecutors to disprove a defendant’s self-defense case during the pretrial hearing stage. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that the new amendment to the law gave lawmakers more authority than is allowed.

  
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Hirsch added that the Florida Supreme Court should have developed the amendment, setting up the case for a likely path to the state’s top court. He said, “As a matter of constitutional separation of powers, that procedure cannot be legislatively modified.”

In 2015, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the burden should be given to the defendants to prove their case of self-defense in order to avoid charges for a violent act. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed the amended legislation, backed by the National Rifle Association, which went into effect in June.

Prosecutors were against the new amendment, concerned that defendants would easily get away with murder. Having to provide “clear and convincing” evidence that the defendant was only using force for self-defense would be a hard case to prove.

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Republican speaker of the House of Representatives Richard Corcoran said, “It is the role of the legislature to write the laws that govern how Floridians may exercise their statutory and constitutional rights. The Florida House will continue to stand with ordinary citizens who exercise their right to self-defense.”

Sen. Rob Bradley told the Miami Herald, “I would be surprised if this decision were upheld at the appellate level.” The “stand your ground” law was first passed over ten years ago in 2005. The law gave people the right to “shoot first” if they believed they were in danger of any physical harm. The law stated, “A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.” Under the law, judges also had the power to dismiss charges against a defendant if the judge believed a reasonable level of self-defense was used in the case.



The law gained notoriety in 2012 when an unarmed teenager was shot in central Florida. George Zimmerman was the neighborhood watchman that came into contact with Trayvon Martin in the dark. He argued that his force was “reasonable” because he believed himself to be in danger. A jury acquitted him of second-degree murder.

In other states without this law, people must retreat before turning to force. States that currently have “stand your ground” laws are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Do you think “stand your ground” laws should be allowed or should retreat be the first step in any attack? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about George Zimmerman, read these articles:

Photo: flickr.com



 

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