Florida judge rules on ‘Stand Your Ground’ law

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A judge ruled Monday that Florida’s update to the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law was unconstitutional.

In ruling that legislators went beyond their authority in their update of the law, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch said that the changes should have been crafted by the Florida Supreme Court instead of by the Legislature.

According to the Miami Herald, the 14-page order is a victory for prosecutors who have firmly opposed the change to the law. Critics have claimed that the revision to the 2005 statute made it easier for defendants to avoid conviction for murder and other violent crimes.

Modifications to the “Stand Your Ground” law, which was backed by the National Rifle Association, were made by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law in June.

Critics of the revised law claim that it encouraged a shoot-first mentality, which eliminated a person’s duty to retreat prior to using deadly force in response to an apparent threat. Prosecutors asserted that the law made it easier for judges to dismiss criminal charges when they deem that a defendant acted in self-defense.

The new law required prosecutors to prove with “clear and convincing” evidence that a defendant was not acting in self-defense.

Monday’s ruling will likely face scrutiny in the appellate courts and the Florida Supreme Court. The Associated Press reported that Kylie Mason, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Pam Bondi, said they plan to appeal the judge’s order.

John Tupps, spokesman for Scott, said the governor’s office is also reviewing the ruling.

The “Stand Your Ground” law was significant in the case of the 2012 killing in Florida of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. After receiving instructions on the “Stand Your Ground” law, Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder, sparking an ongoing debate regarding the limits of self-defense.

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