April 18, 2018

Recently, Miami –Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that lawmakers overstepped their authority in creating an updated “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law this year because it forces prosecutors to disprove a defendant’s self-defense claim at a pre-trial hearing.  Apparently, under Florida’s constitution, the Florida Supreme Court, not the legislature, should have created the update.

The updated law was backed by the NRA and signed into effect by Gov. Rick Scott in July 2017. Florida was the first state in the U.S. to enact a “Stand Your Ground” law, and it has always been controversial. Critics claim that the law:

  • Fosters a shoot-first mentality
  • Gives killers a pass at justice
  • Eliminates a citizen’s duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter an apparent threat.
  • Made it easier for judges to dismiss criminal charges if they deem someone acted in self-defense.

The Florida Supreme court later ruled that defendants asking for immunity from criminal prosecution must prove that they were acting in self-defense.

With the passage of the new updated law, the burden of proof shifts to the prosecutor to disprove a defendant’s self-defense claim. Critics claim that the updated law forces prosecutors to unfairly try the case twice making it easier for criminals to skate on violent charges. Judge Hirsch’s ruling shifted the burden of proof back to the defendant.

CCWs are not innocent until proven guilty

As a concealed carrier, the only time we would discharge our firearm would be for self-defense. We are not innocent until proven guilty like other people. If charged with a crime for defending ourselves, or our home or loved ones, we would be forced (in Florida) to prove that we acted in self-defense. Just how does one go about doing that? More than likely, you would have to produce witnesses, maybe pictures of the scene. That could be almost impossible do in the case of someone breaking and entering your home. Where would you find a witness to that? I suppose you could take pictures of broken door jams or windows, injuries sustained by any victims.

What happened to the role of the jury?In determining whether the use of deadly force or non-deadly force was warranted, a jury will examine what a reasonable person would have done under the circumstances appearing to the defendant at the time of the incident. This inquiry into what a “reasonable person” would have done is known as an “objective standard.”  In the case of a defendant in a Florida criminal case that presents any evidence of self-defense, the State must overcome the claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Why doesn’t the Second Amendment to the constitution carry any weight?  Last time I looked, we still do have in existence the Second Amendment to our great U.S. Constitution (USC), which gives us the right to “keep and bear arms” for our self defense. Doesn’t a constitutional amendment carry more weight than a circuit judge’s ruling?

Once again, pro-gun politics have interfered with concealed carriers’ individual rights, as citizens are we now more vulnerable to prosecution and conviction for acting in self-defense. The Florida Supreme Court needs to correct this and reaffirm the rights of Florida’s gun owners and concealed carriers by fixing the law to shift the burden of proof in immunity hearings to the state and allow judges to consider self-defense claims at sentencing. We need to get behind the idea that an individual using his gun for lawful self-defense purposes in a threatening situation does NOT bear the burden of proof and is INNOCENT until proven guilty by the prosecution. Concealed carriers should be afforded the same rights that every other citizen has.