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Stand Your Ground (SYG) is an extension of the common law Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine is the legal theory that if one is attacked in his or her home, then he or she does not have to retreat before using deadly force.
Florida law, like the law in many other states, changes overtime to reflect the feelings of its citizens and to increase effectiveness. Stand Your Ground, specifically, could face changes based on the Florida Supreme Court decision in Bretherick v. State, 170 So.3d 766 (Fla. 2015).
In Bretherick, the Florida Supreme Court addressed the burden of proof in pretrial evidentiary hearings when a defendant asserts immunity under SYG. Who has the burden of proof is a phrase used to describe which side has to present evidence to prove their argument.
In this case, the defendant was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm under Fla. Stat. § 784.021, for conduct that evolved on the Florida highways. While on vacation in Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs), Bretherick, the defendant, pointed a gun at an irate driver. Based on the facts, where the defendant had the burden of proof, the trial court held that Bretherick was not entitled to immunity under Stand Your Ground.
The Florida Supreme Court held that the defendant has the burden of proof in evidentiary hearings when asserting immunity under SYG.
Senate Bill 128 will overturn the Florida Supreme Court ruling. The Bill will change the burden of proof and the standard of proof by which the party has to present in evidentiary hearings to successfully assert immunity under SYG.
The Florida Legislature based the Senate Bill 128 on the dissenting opinion in Bretherick. The dissenting Justices reasoned that the factual question raised by asserting SYG in pretrial is the same as the question that would be raised at trial. Given that, imposing the burden on the defendant in pretrial the defendant does not enjoy the benefit of immunity from trial provided by the Legislature.
Essentially, Florida Senate Bill 128 will do the following:
By changing these elements, it will be on the state of Florida to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a defendant is not entitled to immunity under SYG.
The Florida Supreme Court noted that no other state that has Stand Your Ground laws have placed the burden of proof on the state. Approximately twenty-two (22) states have some version of SYG, and at least four (4) states have a specific procedure for the burden of proof required in a pretrial hearing. The four states place the burden of proof on the defendant.
Since Senate Bill 128 passed the Florida Legislature, Florida is now the only state thus far, to implement Stand Your Ground in this manner.
If you or someone you know has been charged with assault, battery, or homicide and he or she believes that they were fighting for their life, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Not only is Stand Your Ground a difficult defense to assert, but it is also controversial. It is important to have an attorney who has a history of fighting for the rights of criminal defendants and who understands how to navigate the pitfalls of SYG.
We serve clients in Gainesville, FL, in Alachua County, and in the surrounding areas of Bradford County, Union County, Putnam County, Marion County, Levy County, Gilchrist County, and Columbia County.
Call (352) 375-0812 for more information about how an experienced attorney can fight for your best defense.
**Update: Senate Bill 128 was passed on Wednesday, March 15, 2017
This Article Was Last Updated on Monday, March 20, 2017
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