The task force created to look at the current state of the law regarding self-defense embarks on its review Florida's Stand Your Ground Law. Every Miami criminal defense lawyer is anxiously awaiting the outcome to see if any change in the law will affect present and future clients. In addition to the task created by the governor, and independent task force created by a state senator will also look at the law to determine if it should be changed to minimize the use of the law in future cases. Senator Chris Smith claims that the law should be changed to allow law enforcement officers more of an opportunity to investigate crimes committed against unarmed victims, thus reducing the ability of criminals to use the law as a way to avoid prosecution. Smith intends for his task force to compile a report which would provide the governor and the legislature guidance in how to modify the current state of the law.
Under the current state of the law, a stand your ground defense will initially be heard by a judge in response to a motion to dismiss filed by a defense attorney. After taking testimony and reviewing physical evidence, the judge has the power to dismiss a case, or in the alternative, deny the motion and set the case for trial. Smith proposes that a stand your ground defense would be better off heard by a grand jury who would determine whether or not a defendant should stand trial. Smith's group is also advocating for changes in the self-defense law which include re-writing the law, thus limiting its application, and a tracking system for cases in which the defense is based on stand your ground. The committee has declined to advocate for an outright repeal of the law.
The task force created by the governor is meeting today simply to establish its goals and plan future meetings to discuss the law. After several meetings, it is anticipated that the panel will submit suggestions to the governor and the legislature about how to improve the stand your ground law. The good news is that changes are not imminent and that defendants currently charged with violent crimes such as murder, manslaughter, aggravated battery and aggravated assault have time to submit motions to dismiss under the current change of law. With that being said, it seems unavoidable that the law will eventually be pared back by the legislature, allowing for fewer defendants to seek asylum under the law. Defense attorneys and representatives from state attorneys offices are concerned with the potential outcome of the meetings and will appear at various times in Tallahassee to express their views.
Defense attorneys believe that there are very valuable points to the law as it currently exists, while prosecutors believe that the law also has positive aspects, but is often applied inconsistently due to its broad language. While the law should be limited to strictly to self-defense cases, it has no place in domestic violence cases or in cases where there are unintended deaths that occur as a result of shootouts resulting from street level narcotics dealings. The major concern among prosecutors and legislators is that the law is being used as a shield by defendants who really should not have a right to avail themselves of the stand your ground law.
Florida Task Force Seeks Major Overhaul to Stand Your Ground Law, Miami Herald.com, May 1, 2012.