For the first time since neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Florida’s Senate held a hearing on changes to the state’s controversial stand-your-ground law, and new guidelines for deadly force and self-defense by neighborhood watch groups were approved with a vote of 7-2
The Judiciary Committee hearing was held Tuesday on Senate Bills 130 , regarding deadly force, filed by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) and SB122, regarding self-defense, filed in August by Senator Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale).
The two bills were combined into one, as SB130, by an amendment passed at the hearing. Simmons was one of the authors of Florida’s original infamous stand-your-ground law. The bill still has to go through three more hoops before it reaches the House: the Criminal Justice, Community Affairs, and Rules Committees.
The combined SB130 requires county sheriff or municipal police departments to issue guidelines for neighborhood crime watch programs. It gives guidelines on deadly force, providing that a person who is justified in using force is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action initiated by the person against whom the force was used; and providing that any reason, including immunity, used by an aggressor to justify the use of force is not available to the aggressor under specified circumstances.
The self-defense part allows police to authorize a person to use force, but not deadly force, in defense of property, providing that person is immune from civil action brought by whoever the force is used against, and providing that a law enforcement agency’s right is not restricted in investigating the use of force on which an immunity claim is based. The law also gives the Department of Law Enforcement power to collect, process, maintain, and disseminate information and data on all incidents concerning alleged justifiable use of force in Florida.
The legislation faces an uphill battle within the House of Representatives in the state known for underhanded politics. State Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) was selected as Chairman of any House review, and has been infamously quoted as saying he will not change “one damn comma” in the state’s stand-your-ground law. And so far, every effort to change the law has been blocked.
Meanwhile, any Florida House hearing on HB 4003, the bill to repeal stand your ground, filed in August by State Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee), will not take place this month, since Williams would not be available to attend due to other commitments.
- Stand Your Ground In Action: Dead Men Can’t Talk (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)
- Crime Watch or Crime Botch? The Legality of Neighborhood Watch Programs in the Trayvon Martin Case (smartsign.com)
- Ron Davis slams stand-your-ground, Michael Dunn (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)
- Video On YouTube: Florida Stand Your Ground Victims (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)
- Florida Panel Concedes Stand-Your-Ground Needs Change (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)
- NRA Shoots Down Sarasota, Florida Opposition To Stand-Your-Ground (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)