In July of this year the Florida Supreme Court held that anyone seeking to use the “stand your ground” defense in this state — which allows for the use of deadly force without a duty to retreat in cases where those using the defense claim that it was necessary to use deadly force to prevent death or great bodily harm — carry the burden of proof that the defense applies and that they should not be prosecuted as a result.
Now, the Florida Senate is considering proposed legislation that would if enacted into law reverse the opinion of the Supreme Court and place the burden of proof back onto the prosecution that the defendant should not be immune from prosecution under the law. The Senate bill’s progress is in contrast to a similar bill in the House of Representatives that stalled in committee in November of this year, but the proponents of the Senate bill are hopeful that if it clears the Senate that a House version of the same bill can be concluded.
Proponents of the bill claim that requiring the prosecution to carry the burden of proof in stand-your-ground cases was the original intent of the law, and that the state Supreme Court erred in moving that burden to the defendant. They say that the change they are proposing to overrule the Supreme Court’s interpretation is meant to restore the law to its initial meaning. If it becomes law the Senate bill would also apply retroactively to current cases that would otherwise be subject to the Supreme Court’s present interpretation of how the burden of proof should work.
Criminal laws in this state are often in a state of change, whether through legislative modifications or court opinions, and one of the responsibilities of criminal defense attorneys is to ensure that they stay current on the most recent actual and possible modifications to the law so that they can provide the best possible legal representation to their clients.
Source: CBS Miami, “‘Stand Your Ground’ Bill Heads to Senate Floor,” Margie Menzel, Dec. 4, 2015