The Orlando Sentinel reports that an ad hoc Florida state Senate panel, drawn together specifically to advocate changes to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, has emerged to announce that there should be changes to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

The key change sought by the panel is to impose limits on the immunity from civil liability for people who lawfully defend themselves against lethal attack.  In other words, civil damage lawsuits even after an acquittal.

Ironically, the changes advocated by the “Stand Your Ground” committee do not target Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute at all–§776.013(3). Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm—but rather seek to undermine Florida’s self-defense immunity statute—§776.032. Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.

(Defense attorney Mark O'Mara during Zimmerman trial)

(Defense attorney Mark O’Mara during Zimmerman trial)

Even a cursory reading of the law reveals that the Stand Your Ground statute has nothing whatever to do with the Self-Defense Immunity statute, other than having been adopted by the same session of the Florida legislature.

Indeed, the legislators have simply cloaked their desire to re-impose criminal and civil liability on law-abiding people, who act in genuine self-defense, under the guise of “fighting” Stand Your Ground. In doing so, these feckless legislators  merely reveal the duplicitous nature of their actions.

Under current Florida law, an unlawful aggressor who seeks to sue their victims for harm suffered at the hands of the defending victims will be compelled to reimburse the victim if the victim’s use of force is judged to have been lawful self-defense.  It is precisely this provision that keeps the lawyers advising the Trayvon Martin family from bringing suit against George Zimmerman.

The legislators favoring these changes justify them in terms of re-imposing legal liability on people who while acting in self-defense negligently injure or kill an innocent bystander by “spraying bullets in the air.”

Some of the legislators are also seeking to hamstring community watch programs, presumably to ease the ability of some constituents to criminally prey upon others by reducing the risks that this suspicious conduct will be observed and reported to the police.

Proponents of change also reveal their ignorance of existing law by arguing that Florida’s Stand Your Ground should be changed so that it cannot be claimed by aggressors.  This is already the law, as Stand Your Ground applies only to innocent defenders attacked by criminal assailants. 

Proponents also argue that Stand Your Ground should not serve to limit the ability of the police to investigate a defensive force incident—there is no such restriction currently in place, as current law explicitly states that police “may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force”.

In fact, these legislators are engaged in Obamian political theater. Both the “Stand Your Ground” and “Self-Defense Immunity” statutes are overwhelmingly favored by the large majority of Florida’s residents who wish to be able to lawfully defend themselves against criminal predation, and no substantive changes to either is expected to have any hope of passage on the floor of either the Florida Senate or House.

–Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

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, (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.

In addition to the book, Andrew also conducts Law of Self Defense Seminars all around the country, with upcoming seminars scheduled for Columbia SC (10/19), Atlanta GA (11/16), and Epping NH (11/24, at the SigSauer Academy, where Andrew is a Guest Instructor). Click here for reviews of recently completed seminars in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter at @LawSelfDefense and using #LOSD2, on Facebook, and at his blog, The Law of Self Defense.


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