Is Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Unreasonable?
There has been much controversy surrounding Florida’s Stand Your Ground law since the acquittal of George Zimmerman on July 13th, 2013. Before going further, it is essential to understand what the Stand Your Ground law actually is.
The law has expanded from the “Castle Doctrine” or the frequently called “no-retreat” laws. (NDAA.org). The law expands itself outside of one’s home to public sidewalks and streets, or to where someone has the right to be. The key areas of controversy however, are over the actual language of the expanded law itself.
The law states that “(a) person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” Fla. Stat. § 776.013(3).
What About the Language Makes the Law Unreasonable?
Part of the law states that one may “meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm…” This means that the fear that one has only needs to be a reasonable fear, not that it needs to be correct to justify a stand your ground law defense. But why does this pose a problem? Florida is a state that has more than 1.1 million concealed-weapon permit holders. (Miami Herald). It is easy to see how someone can mistake someone reaching in their pocket for a cell phone to call for help and someone reaching in their pocket for a concealed weapon.
Is the Law’s Language the Only Thing that Causes Controversy?
Prosecutors will mostly side with this one, because this is something that makes their jobs harder. In a criminal case, once a defendant produces some kind of evidence of self-defense, the burden shifts, and it is now up to the prosecution todisprove the self-defense claim. (Slate). Usually in these cases, there are two people who are involved in a fight, but only one survives. The prosecution’s job gets harder in these scenarios because the only other person that was involved in the altercation is now dead.
Is There a Chance That the Law Will Be Removed?
Unlikely. There has been no indication that Florida Gov. Rick Scott has any intentions of getting the stand your ground law changed, even with certain celebrities protesting their performance in the state and despite the sit-ins at his office by local protestors. Also, it seems like Floridians don’t necessarily want the law gone. “A new poll released last week showed 50 percent of Floridians support keeping the law intact, 31 percent want it changed and only 13 percent want a full repeal.” (Miami Herald). “Similar to a national poll released this week, the Viewpoint survey found Florida voters thought the Zimmerman acquittal was the right decision; 56 percent supported it and 38 percent opposed it.” (Miami Herald).
The Future of the Stand Your Ground Law
It is unclear as to where this law will end up, whether it will be changed or eliminated altogether, but for the moment, the Stand Your Ground law is here to stay.
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