Two Florida lawmakers are co-sponsoring a bill that would repeal Florida's Stand Your Ground law.
Sen. Dwight Bullard and Rep. Alan Williams, Democrats from Miami and Tallahassee respectively, are proposing the legislation that would repeal the law.
Under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, you may meet "force with force," including lethal force, if you reasonably believe such force is necessary to save a life or prevent serious bodily injury. The law requires that the person who employs the protections of Stand Your Ground not be engaged in the commission of a crime and must be in a place where they have a right to be. This means that a person committing an armed robbery cannot claim Stand Your Ground if a victim shoots back. It also means that burglars cannot use Stand Your Ground if confronted by a homeowner.
Stand Your Ground takes the age-old "Castle Doctrine" and applies it to places outside of the home. The Castle Doctrine states that your home is your castle and that you can use lethal force against anybody who unlawfully enters or attempts to enter your home. You have no duty to retreat while inside of your home.
Outside of your home, old Florida law required you to retreat from a confrontation before resorting to force. If you had to use lethal force, you had to show that you did everything in your power to avoid having to use force.
The aim of Stand Your Ground is to protect people from violence. It is not intended to turn minor disputes into full-blown gun fights. It is not intended to give you a right to draw your gun just because somebody gives you the finger or mouths off to you.
Incidents such as those are crimes, and are prosecuted throughout Florida accordingly. Stand Your Ground is protection for law-abiding citizens against violent predators. It's goal is to prevent the arrests and prosecutions of good people just trying to protect their own lives or the lives of others.
Remember - Stand Your Ground is not a trial defense. It is an immunity. If Stand Your Ground applies, then the law says that you cannot even be arrested. Under the old rule, self-defense situations often resulted in the filing of criminal charges, with police and prosecutors relying upon the concept that self-defense was a question for a jury.
I agree that Stand Your Ground can be misused and misapplied. However, the aim of the law is sincere and should not be overlooked. Even if revisions are made, the right of self-preservation must not be taken away from Florida's citizens.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward.