Florida City Commissioner Charged with Murder: Second Spotlight on Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law
Florida’s “stand your ground” law is once again under the spotlight as a Lakeland, Florida city commissioner (Michael Dunn) is now facing second-degree murder charges after shooting an alleged shoplifter at his store earlier this month (October). According to the footage obtained by police, the victim hid a hatchet from the store under his clothing, was confronted by Dunn, at which point the victim indicated that he would pay for the item he was accused of stealing, and started exiting the store. According to reports, Dunn then raised his gun and fired his weapon, killing the victim.
According to witness reports, the victim never made any threats against Dunn. As a result, Dunn has been unable to rely on the stand your ground law to avoid being charged. Dunn also admitted that he shot the victim twice because he was stealing from the store and did not attempt to render aid to the victim after he shot him.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law & History
Florida’s law allows someone to use deadly force if they “reasonably believe” that such conduct is necessary to defend themselves or someone else against another’s “imminent use of unlawful force.” The law most notably came under scrutiny after another parking lot shooting where a father of three was fatally shot. While the sheriff did not originally plan to charge the shooter in that case, public outcry arguably led state prosecutors to decide that his actions did not fall within the exemption.
In late October, a circuit judge set bail for Dunn at $150,000. He was also ordered to remain under house arrest and surrender any weapons he owns, and barred from working in his store because it sells firearms. In this case, a grand jury has already determined that Dunn’s actions fell outside the stand your ground defense because the shooting allegedly happened without lawful justification. As a result of his actions, he will be charged with second-degree murder and face up to life in prison or on parole, with a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, because a weapon was involved in the case, Florida imposes a mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison if he is convicted.
Meanwhile, Dunn maintains that his actions fell within the stand your ground law because it allows business owners and homeowners to shoot suspected criminals.
Contact Our Florida Criminal Defense & Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you are facing murder charges, or have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligent or intentional act, our experienced Florida defense attorneys are well-versed in both criminal defense and wrongful death claims, and can help. Contact us today at the Baez Law Firm to find out about our services.