Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Florida Alert! Finally a news article that is fair and balanced on Florida's SYG law

Saturday, July 8, 2017

DATE: July 8, 2017
TO: USF & NRA Member and Friends
FROM: Marion P. Hammer
  USF Executive Director
  NRA Past President

Enjoy it.  It's a rare occurrence these days.

https://reason.com/blog/2017/07/06/florida-judge-strikes-down-part-of-stand

REASON.com

Florida Judge Strikes Down Part of Stand Your Ground Law

A Miami judge says defendants bear the burden of proving self-defense, but criminal justice reformers and the NRA say it's the government’s job.

C.J. Ciaramella | Jul. 6, 2017 5:41 pm

Miami circuit court judge Milton Hirsch has declared a provision in Florida's "stand your ground" laws violated the constitution's separation of powers, once again stirring up debate over the state's controversial self-defense law.

Hirsch ruled Monday that the state legislature erred when it passed a law this May shifting the burden of proof onto state prosecutors to disprove self-defense claims during pretrial immunity hearings.

The decision is not binding on other courts, and it will almost certainly be appealed. Gun control advocates and state prosecutors who argue the laws make it too easy for defendants to avoid being tried for violent crime will once again face off against a coalition of Second Amendment groups, defense attorneys, and criminal justice reform organizations, who say the intent of the law clearly puts the burden on the government to disprove self-defense claims.

The bill had the support not only of the National Rifle Association (NRA), but also of public defenders, criminal defense attorneys, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a nonprofit advocacy group that opposes mandatory minimum sentences.

Marion Hammer, a former president of the NRA and now a prominent Florida gun lobbyist, calls Hirsch's ruling judicial activism.

"Judge Hirsch made a unilateral decision to attack the constitutional authority of the Legislature to pass laws even though neither of the attorneys in the case asked him to rule on such an issue, "Hammer says.  "Activist judges can't just arbitrarily make procedural rules to usurp laws they don't like."

State prosecutors vocally opposed passage of the original Stand Your Ground laws in 2005, as well as the legislature's subsequent amendments.

"Outside of 'stand your ground,' I don't know of any other defense that gives defendants immunity from prosecution," Glenn Hess, president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, told The Trace earlier this year. "It's a free bite of the apple for them."

The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The first-in-the-nation Stand Your Ground laws did not address which party would bear the burden of proof. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2008 and again in 2015 that defendants must prove self-defense during pretrial hearings to be granted immunity from the burden of a full trial.

The 2015 case, Bretherick v. Florida, involved a road rage incident. Jared Bretherick faced a mandatory three years in prison if found guilty. That mandatory minimum law has since been rolled back, but aggravated assault and battery still carry stiff sentences in Florida, and prosecutors have total discretion as to whether and with what to charge someone.

Marissa Alexander, who served nearly six years in prison and on house arrest before being released from custody earlier this year is the marquee case for those who say Florida's aggravated assault laws are too punitive. Alexander was convicted in 2012 of aggravated assault after firing what she said was a warning shot at her allegedly abusive husband. A judge found Alexander did not meet her burden of proof for a self-defense claim.

"We've always thought Stand Your Ground and the mandatory minimum laws are in tension with each other," says Greg Newburn, the state policy director of FAMM, "because we rightly want our citizens to defend themselves when they're under attack, but if they do, they open themselves up to insane prison sentences."

Gun control advocates and prosecutors counter with cases like Omar Rodriguez, whose claim of self-defense after shooting his neighbor over a dispute over dog poop Hirsch ruled upon.

"Abusive prosecutors who are more concerned about convictions than justice will always make up a parade of horribles to try to rationalize their opposition to justice," Hammer says.

However, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that requiring defendants to prove their self-defense claims would not diminish their right to a fair trial. On the other hand, putting the burden of proof on the state would force state attorneys to try their case twice, expending "tremendous" time and resources defeating potentially frivolous claims, as well as giving defendants a preview of the state's entire case, the court majority said.

Not all of the justices agreed. In a dissenting opinion, Florida Supreme Court justice Charles Canady wrote, "By imposing the burden of proof on the defendant at the pretrial evidentiary hearing, the majority substantially curtails the benefit of the immunity from trial conferred by the legislature under the stand your ground law."

The legislature decided to clarify its intent in May, shifting that burden back onto the government. "The new law merely puts the law back to where it was before the 2008 activism by the lower court," Hammer, who supported the amendment, says. "The recent action by the liberal faction on the Florida Supreme Court was nothing more than judicial activism at a higher lever."

Families Against Mandatory Minimums and public defenders argue that Florida's stiff mandatory minimum sentences for aggravated assault and battery can make the prospect of going to trial and arguing self-defense an extremely risky proposition.

"We have a system right now where the deck is already stacked severely against defendants who claim self-defense," Newburn says. "When you're facing a 20-year mandatory minimum it's bad enough. When you add, on top of that, having to prove your innocence at an immunity hearing and giving the prosecution access to all the evidence you'd be presenting at trial that makes this already severe burden intolerable."

Stacy Scott, a public defender for Florida's Eighth Judicial Circuit, says defendants who cannot afford private attorneys are much less likely to be able to marshal the resources to fight a lengthy and complicated self-defense trial.

"Prosecutors have way too much leverage in every area of the process," Scott says. "It becomes almost insurmountable for someone with a legitimate self-defense claim to rationally choose to turn down a favorable plea offer and go to trial."

Scott provided Reason with a plea offer a client received in January from a state attorney. "THIS PLEA OFFER IS BASED UPON NO DEPOSITION BEING TAKEN, UPON SETTING A DEPOSITION I WILL REVOKE THIS OFFER," the memo reads. For public defenders, this choice amounts to either not doing their jobs or letting their clients risk years in prison.

When all these factors are taken into account, Scott says, "it makes total sense that, for the hearing to have any meaning and satisfy the legislative intent for true immunity, the government should bear the burden of proof."

A state appeals court will likely take up that question. A spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told the Associated Press Bondi's office would appeal the order.

C.J. Ciaramella is a criminal justice reporter at Reason.

Follow C.J. Ciaramella on Twitter

 

 

 

 

TRENDING NOW

News  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Federal Court Upholds Decision to Block California’s Magazine Ban

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit issued a ruling in the case of Duncan v. Becerra on Tuesday upholding a lower court’s decision to suspend enforcement of California’s restriction on the possession of magazines ...

Anti-gun Efforts to Expand U.N. Regulations to Ammunition Continue

News  

Friday, July 6, 2018

Anti-gun Efforts to Expand U.N. Regulations to Ammunition Continue

Shortly before 4:00am last Saturday morning, the two week long Third Review Conference (RevCon3) on the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All ...

Justice Scalia Made Clear the Second Amendment and Heller Prohibit “Assault Weapon” Bans

News  

Second Amendment  

Gun Laws  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Justice Scalia Made Clear the Second Amendment and Heller Prohibit “Assault Weapon” Bans

On July 9, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) offered the following ham-handed statement in an attempted attack on President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Brett Kavanaugh is a true Second Amendment radical. ...

Washington: Seattle City Council Passes Ordinance Making Firearms Unavailable for Self-Defense

Monday, July 16, 2018

Washington: Seattle City Council Passes Ordinance Making Firearms Unavailable for Self-Defense

On July 9th, the Seattle City Council passed a mandatory firearm storage ordinance to restrict the self-defense rights of Seattle residents.  The ordinance, if signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan, will impose a one-size-fits-all method of storing firearms as ...

Delaware: Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Sunday Deer Hunting

Hunting  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Delaware: Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Sunday Deer Hunting

On July 11th, Governor John Carney signed Senate Bill 198 into law to expand hunting opportunities in Delaware by eliminating the prohibition against hunting for deer on Sundays and allowing for the harvesting of deer on Sundays ...

California DOJ Withdraws Proposed Regulations Expanding Application of “Assault Weapon” Definitions

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

California DOJ Withdraws Proposed Regulations Expanding Application of “Assault Weapon” Definitions

On Monday, the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Firearms (“CA DOJ”) officially withdrew the proposed regulations that would have expanded the improperly adopted “assault weapon” definitions, to apply in all circumstances. This withdrawal comes ...

Illinois: Governor Signs Two Gun Control Bills

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Illinois: Governor Signs Two Gun Control Bills

On July 17th, Governor Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 2354 and Senate Bill 3256 into law.

NRA Files Comments in Support of Trump Administration’s Export Reform Effort

News  

Friday, July 13, 2018

NRA Files Comments in Support of Trump Administration’s Export Reform Effort

On Monday, the public comment period closed on a pair of rulemakings that could finally free American gun owners and small businesses from being trapped in a minefield of federal regulations designed for exporters of ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

California: MASSIVE Data Breach and Significant Registration Problems with CA DOJ’s “Assault Weapon” Registration System

Saturday, July 7, 2018

California: MASSIVE Data Breach and Significant Registration Problems with CA DOJ’s “Assault Weapon” Registration System

Following the closure of the “assault weapon” registration period, NRA and CRPA received complaints from hundreds of individuals who were unable to register their firearms as required because CA DOJ’s online application system was unable ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.