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Florida Senate Approves “How to Get Away With Murder Bill”

SelfDef2

The Florida state senate has voted to approve Senate Bill 128 (SB 128) regarding self-defense immunity cases. The bill aims to shift the burden of proof in self-defense cases, also known as “stand your ground” cases. SB 128 passed with a 23-15 vote, however, the bill has been met with harsh backlash as detractors of the legislation refer to it as the “how to get away with murder bill” or “shoot to kill” legislation.

About the SB 128

SB 128 is centered around current Florida legislation that grants defendants immunity from criminal prosecution if the person is “justified” in using force. Prior to SB 128, it was unclear whether this burden of proof fell on the prosecutors or defendant. In 2015 the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the defendant must produce a preponderance of evidence at the pretrial hearing to be granted immunity. However, SB 128 now places this burden of proof on the prosecution. This means the prosecution must now determine if a defendant is immune from criminal prosecution based on the claims of justifiable use of force. The defendant will be required to clearly detail the reasons they are immune and substantiate the basis behind their claims. However, to protect the defendant during the hearing’s prosecution proceedings the defendant will not need to be sworn or forced to admit the facts. Under SB 128 the state prosecutor must also prove their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. What is interesting about this requirement is that this standard of proof is typically reserved for higher level proceedings.

Stand Your Ground Protections in Florida

Florida law operates under the premise that an individual is justified in their use of force if they believe they are in danger of severe bodily harm or death if they do not take defensive action. The individual must also have a reason to believe that forcible entry has occurred and the offender has entered the property to harm or remove the person. It should be noted that Florida law does not place an obligation on an individual to hide or retreat if someone is in danger. In many cases, once an individual unlawfully and forcefully enters a person’s residence or dwelling it is reasonably assumed that this individual intends to commit an act of violence, which justifies an individual’s use of force as a means of defense. Thus, if an individual uses force in self-defense, and they meet the criteria provided by Florida law, they will typically be immune from criminal prosecution.

It should also be noted that under Florida chapter 776, F.S. if it has been determined that an individual is immune for criminal prosecution, they are also immune from any civil action regarding the incident.

Do You Have Questions?

In the event that you are accused of a crime in a situation where you invoked your right to self-defense it is critical that you reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The opposition will do everything in their power to discredit your claims and pursue harsh punishments against you. Do not take this threat on your innocence lightly, contact the Baez Law Firm in Florida today to ensure you have experienced and aggressive counsel on your side as you fight for your freedom.

Resources:

flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/00128

floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2015/sc13-2312.pdf

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