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Stand your ground changes leave defendants facing uncertainty

Florida is one of approximately two dozen states in the nation to have implemented a stand your ground law. While the bill has always been controversial, it became the subject of heavy criticism during the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012.

Last year, lawmakers revised the bill, but these changes have been subject to legal challenges. This has left individuals who may have acted in self defense in legal limbo.

What is Florida's stand your ground law?

Florida's stand your ground law that legislators passed in 2005 was the first such piece of legislation enacted in the nation.

Florida has always allowed individuals to defend themselves. The biggest difference that comes with the stand your ground law is that someone no longer had to first try to escape a dangerous situation before trying to defend themselves with a weapon.

This means that someone can use force, including deadly force, without having to move to safety if they have a reasonable belief that they may face imminent death or great bodily harm.

What changed in 2017?

Previously, a defendant needed to prove to the court that they were acting in self defense. The change to the law would shift the burden of proof from the defense to the prosecution. This means that, going forward, a prosecutor would have to prove that a stand your grand defense was not applicable.

What will change going forward?

This change began being challenged in court almost immediately. Two judges ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The bigger question, however, is how should the courts approach pending cases that occurred before Governor Scott signed the law on June 9, 2017.

That question remains in flux. Until the matter is firmly resolved, stand your ground defendants may face uncertainty regarding their criminal case going forward.

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