On Friday, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into a law an important modification to the state’s self-defense immunity statute, the famous “stand your ground” law.
The self-defense bill stemmed from a Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that said defendants have the burden of proof to show they should be shielded from prosecution under the “stand your ground” law.
The new law would give defendants more protection from prosecution in “stand your ground” cases by requiring prosecutors to prove whether a defendant is entitled to immunity at a pretrial hearing in order to disprove a claim of self-defense immunity. The law restores the presumption of innocence in self-defense cases by putting the burden of proof to prosecutors.
“The ‘burden of proof’ bill restores the presumption of innocence in self-defense cases,” told Marion Hammer, National Rifle Association lobbyist. He said shifting the burden of proof would better protect the rights of defendants.
Democrats and critics of the bill worry it will embolden gun owners to shoot first.
“Expanding ‘stand your ground’ would send a clear message to communities of color in Florida – that we are not welcome or safe in this state,” said Lucy McBath, whose son Jordan Davis was killed by a man claiming “stand your ground” defense.
The previous version of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, signed in 2005, required defendants to prove that they had used force in self-defense.