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The Updates Resulting From a Recent Florida Supreme Court Decision in Relation to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

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Stand Your Ground laws are inherently controversial and changes that occur to them will likely always attract substantial attention. The most recent Florida Supreme Court decision centering on this topic is no different and has already gained attention from news outlets all over the country.

What is a Stand Your Ground Law?

A Stand Your Ground law is a type of self-defense statute that establishes a right by which people can respond to threats or force without fear of criminal prosecution. Florida’s version of the law was enacted in 2005 and is codified in Florida statute 776.013.

What Change Just Occurred as a Result of a Recent Florida Supreme Court Decision?

The Court held that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law can be used as a pre-trial defense by a police officer facing a criminal charge of hurting or killing someone while on duty. This holding essentially means that a police officer can avoid prosecution by showing that he believed he or somebody else was about to be badly hurt or killed.

What Was the Background of the Case at the Center of this Decision?

A then-Broward County Sheriff’s deputy, Peter Peraza, entered a residential neighborhood in response to a call about a man carrying a gun. A neighborhood resident, Jermaine McBean, was walking into his apartment complex after purchasing an air rifle from a pawn shop when he was shot and killed by Pereza, who asserted self-defense because he perceived that McBean was aiming the weapon at him. After Pereza won his pre-trial Stand Your Ground hearing, prosecutors appealed, and argued that Peraza was covered by the police-specific statute and not eligible for Stand Your Ground, a question that made its way to the Supreme Court. Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court found that a police officer is a “person“ under the Stand Your Ground statute, and as such, the lower court ruling in favor of Pereza’s defense was upheld.

What is the Police-Specific Statute?

Florida statute 776.05 specifically outlines an officer’s legal protection when the officer utilizes “justifiable use of force”, meaning that the officer reasonably believes it necessary to defend himself or someone else from bodily harm while making an arrest.

However, the police-specific law doesn’t allow pretrial immunity from prosecution when facts are in dispute. Now apparently, the Stand Your Ground Law does.

What Are the Potential Controversies Resulting From These Changes?

  • Corruption. Police officers, even when they have genuinely good intentions, may be perceived to have a new legal loophole under which they can technically shoot first and later decide to use this as a defense.
  • Reduced public awareness. Unlike many criminal trials, where there are jurors weighing in who are intended to represent the community, these kinds of decisions will instead be based solely on the opinion of a judge before a trial begins.
  • Tense police-citizen relations. In a time where tensions between police officers and civilians remain high, the perception of more power being given to officers may, unfortunately, widen the divide further.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney for Help Today

If you have been charged with a crime or face the imminent threat of being charged with one and need to understand how the updates to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law can apply to the facts of your individual case, it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Donald C. Barrett, P.A. is the Tampa criminal defense attorney you want on your side. Schedule a free consultation today.

Resources:

leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0776/Sections/0776.013.html

floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2018/sc17-1978.pdf

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