Florida Tweaks Stand Your Ground Law
On October 8, 2013, by a 7-2 vote, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee passed changes to Florida’s stand your ground law. It has two more committee stops before it can be considered by the full Senate.
Republican Senator David Simmons’ and Democratic Senator Chris Smith’s bills were combined, although the two still have differences over how much protection to provide for people who use deadly force. They said those differences would be worked out later. Senator
Smith voted against the 2005 bill that created the law, and said that he still believes people should be required to retreat first, if possible, before using force against an attacker. Senator Smith stated that he worked with Simmons on areas where they can agree. Both senators attended hearings around the state to discuss the law. Senator Smith wants a broader definition of “aggressors” and for the state to track the use of the law statewide to get better data than the anecdotal cases collected so far.
Florida House Rep. Alan Williams, (D-Tallahassee) has filed a bill to repeal stand your ground entirely.
The bill prohibits people who are the “aggressors” in confrontations from claiming stand your ground immunity. The changes also specify that law enforcement must still conduct a full investigation in shootings where the law is being claimed as a defense. It adds language that clarifies that anyone who uses force against an attacker can still be responsible if they injure or kill an uninvolved bystander.
The current bill also requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to develop training guidelines for neighborhood watch groups that, among other things, addresses unlawful use of force and conduct that could create or escalate a confrontation.
These are small changes that the Judiciary Committee believes that House Republicans will successfully pass into law.
Trayvon Martin’s death has spurred many positive things for the benefit of others. Along with changes to Florida’s stand your ground law, many young Blacks have received scholarships. Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Trayvon and heard George Zimmerman ask him what he was doing around there, and a bump to Trayvon’s headset, received a full scholarship through Tom Joyner.