Last evening the Florida House conducted a public hearing, judiciary committee debate, and committee vote on HB-4003, which would have done away with Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground law by repealing Florida statute 776.013. Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.
The outcome was that HB-4003 was soundly defeated in committee, thereby ending the effort to repeal Stand-Your-Ground in this year’s legislative session.
776.013 is a multi-part statute that contains not only the primary “Stand-Your-Ground” statute, but also presumptions of reasonable belief of fear of imminent death or grave bodily harm. Thus, if successful, HB-4003 would not only have repealed “Stand-Your-Ground” but also have made it more difficult for law-abiding armed citizens to defend themselves in home invasion, carjacking, and kidnapping scenarios.
HB-4003 was proposed by Rep. Williams, who is not a member of the judiciary committee and therefore not entitled himself to vote on the proposed bill in this setting.
Not surprisingly, the proponents of HB-4003 consisted mostly of a couple of legislators citing bad statistics, isolated anecdotes, and misinformation; the parents of young black children killed in acts of violence, like Trayvon Martin; and a seemingly endless series of high school and college students who were presumably receiving course credit for appearing and pathetically mischaracterizing Stand-Your-Ground.
The opponents of HB-4003 consisted of representatives from Florida’s Sheriff’s association, representatives of state prosecutors, and representatives of the state’s public defenders. All supported Stand-Your-Ground.
Also appearing was Marion Hammer of the National Rifle Association, who did a fine job. I’m also compelled to mention the brief but powerful testimony of a representative from Florida Carry, a prominent state concealed carry organization. I’ll have to dig up his name, but his testimony was awesome. (If anybody knows it, feel free to forward it to me.)
One particularly awkward part of the testimony involved the revelation that the proposed bill would have the effect not only of repealing Stand-Your-Ground out in public but also the Castle Doctrine in one’s home. The bill sponsor Rep. Williams acknowledged this to be the case, but suggested it was a “glitch” that could be fixed later. Even more awkward was when Rep. Williams was questioned on various aspects of Florida’s self-defense law (section 776), and clearly had no idea what the law was.
Finally, and perhaps most telling, Williams closing arguments of the night focused not on Stand-Your-Ground at all, but on the self-defense immunity provisions of the law. The anti-self-defense crowd really, REALLY hates self-defense immunity.
From the start it was fairly apparent that there was little likelihood that HB-4003 was every going to make it out of the judiciary committee. When the vote was finally held, shortly before 8PM Florida time, there were 2 votes in favor of advancing HB-4003, and 11 votes against.
Also covered tonight was HB-89. This bill proposes to exclude defensive uses of force from Florida’s strict “10-20-Life” mandatory minimum sentencing law. Florida’s “10-20-Life” statue has received considerable recent attention in the Marissa Alexander case, which we’ve previously covered at Legal Insurrection:
After extensive testimony on how this mandatory minimum statute has been abused by prosecutors to put in prison for very long periods of time people who would never have been imprisoned had they not first been unlawfully attacked, and how it provides for substantially greater punishment for those who exercise discretion and do not actually strike a blow compared to do those who actually use force, the committee overwhelmingly voted to advance HB-89 (of the 13 judiciary committee members, only one voted against).
Later today, in self-defense law news, we have the bail hearing for Marissa Alexander. Tune in here to see how things go for her.
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.