Florida Governor Rick Scott

The media coverage given to the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, and the attention paid to Florida’s “stand your ground” law, resulted in the legislature considering flaws in the law. They passed a reform bill that was signed by Governor Rick Scott yesterday, June, 20 2014. From tallahassee.com: “The legislation, which marks one of the most significant changes to the state’s self-defense laws since the 2012 killing of teenager Trayvon Martin, was one of nearly 60 bills signed by Scott on Friday.” . . .

The state mandatory sentencing law, the “10-20-life” law, was being used by some prosecutors to obtain plea bargains from people who had attempted to defend themselves, but hadn’t shot anyone.   The case of Marissa Alexander was one that caught the media attention.   Marrisa claimed that she fired a shot that qualified under the “stand your ground” law, but a judge ruled otherwise.  She faced a mandatory 10 years in jail.

The new law allows people to threaten the use of deadly force, even to the point of firing shots that do not hit anyone, to claim the “stand your ground” defense, and not be subject to the mandatory “10-20-life” sentencing.    A similar law was passed in Arizona to ensure that the defensive display of a weapon would be legal. The vast majority of defensive uses of firearms involve the display of a gun without a shot being fired, so it makes sense to clarify that less than lethal defensive uses are legitimate.

The Arizona law was passed because one of the first prosecutions of a person who had a concealed carry permit involved a permit holder who defended himself by displaying his firearm. The aggressors in the case had also called the police after being thwarted in their attack. It’s not uncommon for criminals to use the criminal justice system as a means of revenge. They often understand the system better than most law abiding citizens, and know how to manipulate it to their advantage.

Fortunately, in the Arizona case, there was a third 911 call that was independent of the two involved parties. It confirmed the version of events given by the permit holder, but was not revealed by the prosecution until just before the trial was to begin.

The aggressors in the incident were never charged.

The reform signed into law by Governor Scott has a good chance of saving lives. It confirms that citizens have the legal option of using the deterrent effect of a firearm. In this, it’s a reality-based policy. Firearms are used for deterrence by defenders about 1000 times as often as they are used to kill. Most aggressors don’t want to be shot and most attacks stop when a firearm is displayed. Ensuring that law abiding citizens have and understand that option is a good thing.

©2013 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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91 Responses to FL Gov. Scott Signs “Stand Your Ground” Reform Law

  1. As a Florida resident, I nearly pooped myself upon reading the headline. Then I read the article.

  2. “A similar law was passed in Arizona to ensure that the defensive display of a weapon would be legal. ”

    THAT! needs to happen everywhere. I hope many States follow suit.

  3. Good news for what is a inalienable right. It’s sad that we have to put into law what is actually already our right by birth. Most thugs will be wetting themselves soon. 🙂

  4. This law was a good thing, because as Dean pointed out, prosecutors were going after people who, had they actually shot and killed their assailants, would have been able to avail themselves of SYG or self-defense laws. Since they didn’t actually fire a shot, or fired with the intent to miss, they were opened up to prosecution. The way the laws were written, in a normal lethal self-defense situation, you were in the clear if your weapon remained holstered, and likely in the clear if you killed the guy, but anything in between was fraught with legal peril. It was messed up situation, and anything that moves toward sanity is a good thing.

    • What the previous law did was to criminalize protecting yourself. Show a weapon and go to jail. Draw the weapon and kill the assailant and Bobs your uncle and you are good to go. There were no in betweens. All it did was to up the dead body count when simply allowing the person to show a weapon would have defused the entire situation. Only reason why I think they did it this way was to ensure that the perp was killed and didn’t live to attack someone else another day. Forcing the CCW person to cap the bad guys a s s on the first encounter takes them out of circulation for good….. Also, dead men tell no contrary versions of the encounter……

  5. “Castle doctrine” is really much bigger than being able to shoot bad guys in your house. Everyone (especially the gummint) is supposed to respect your front door. You know, little stuff like not listening to your phone calls or barging in at 3AM with guns drawn. Or shooting your dog.

    • Ever since the Kelo case, I think the rule is “a man’s home is the government’s castle.”

      Surely, if the G can take your entire home away and give it to a real estate developer, the same G can kick your door down.

    • Rick Scott is about the worst governor this state has ever had, especially when it comes to letting business rape our natural resources, and he’s still preferable in almost every way to ol’ turncoat Charlie.

      • Scott is an unpopular governor, but since he’s leading, it tells me what FL thinks of Crist.

        I didn’t like Crist when he was a Republican. Now that he’s a Dem, I really don’t like him.

    • Ralph – Current joke down here in Florida – A Progressive, a Republican, and a Libertarian walk into a bar. The bartender calls out – “Charlie Crist ! How you been?”

  6. yeah but connecting this with that criminal Trayvon Martin is ridiculous. I live here in Florida as well. And that was a complete travesty of the Constitution and the criminal justice system when they involved a special committee to prosecute Mr Zimmerman, ridiculous. We even had a gun show cancelled in Orlando because the African American community threaten to do a drive by shooting if they let Mr Zimmerman into the gun show so they close the doors on it.I basically call bullshit on this one fellas! first of all it wasn’t illegal to brandish a firearm as long as you were using it in self defense in the state of Florida. As long as you reported it to the police right away after the event happened. So basically he wrote a bill that really doesn’t do anything.

      • Marissa Alexander is a liar, read the court documents. Her husband found texts on her phone showing that she was back with her ex-husband on the side. Her current husband questioned her about whether their newborn was his, and she became angry.

        She then left, went to the garage and got a gun from her car, went back in the house, and fired a shot at her husband, with his sons sitting next to him. It was not a “warning shot”.

      • She wasn’t in mortal danger. That’s what gun’s are for: ONLY if a person is in great or mortal danger. If a persons life were in immediate mortal danger, they wouldn’t fire a “warning shot,” they would shoot them. That’s what you carry for, if you are not committed to possibly shooting someone, you shouldn’t be carrying a gun for self defense.

        • Not in Texas, not at night.

          I really think Texas should formalize the “Needed Killin'” defense.

      • She hadn’t lived there for 2 weeks. Plus she left and got a gun and went back in the living room. Plus, she lied about where she fired the shots. She also turned down a plea bargain for 3 years and tried to use SYG when the husband had a right to be there.

  7. This is a great amend to the stand your ground law here in Florida, that’s until some prosecuting lawyer paints a picture to a jury that the accused, like in the case of Zimmerman, choose to use a lethal shot rather than a warning shot to stop an attacker.

  8. I’ve had this happen to me more than once in Orlando where I had to pull my weapon on someone do to them wanting to start what I would call a ruckus with baseball bats and other things I work in the night club industry downtown when I was a younger man and never once did I ever hear from a police officer saying that I couldn’t do that northern Maya gonna tourney say that it was illegal for me to pull out a firearm when my life was threatened and I was where I was supposed to be in as long as I have my concealed weapons permit. The bottom line is if Trayvon Martin would have survived his gun shot wound he would have been arrested for assault and battery and possibly three or four more charges and that’s what the media always seems to forget about. So I guess if you are a black man in Florida its okay to just beat the hell out of anybody you want wrong!

  9. A common sense amendment or clarification to the “Stand Your Ground” law. The oldest defense known to mankind, pre-dating all ancient laws is self-defense. This self-defense is usually in place when it comes to defensive use of a weapon, whether brandishing or firing.

  10. The issue with SYG/ castle doctrine /self defense are the uneven applications when it comes to race. Trevor Dooley and George Zimmerman committed the same actions. Yet Dooley was treated very different from Zimmerman. Ralph Wald can kill someone who didn’t attack him claim SYG and get acquitted. Michael Giles can be attacked fire in a injury induced defense,his attacker state Giles was defending himself. Giles claims SYG and convicted of all charges.

  11. I’d have to read the full text of the law and hear serious (not Shannon and her ilk) arguments pro and con before coming down in favor of this. I’ll be interested to read the comments here, especially from Floridians.

    What concerns me is perhaps people misunderstanding what this law allows. In Texas, for example, the legal justification for employing deadly force is identical to that of threatening deadly force. No one is saying that if you draw, you then must shoot. What is the case is that if the circumstances do not legally permit you to discharge the self defense firearm, then neither do they permit you even to threaten someone with it.

    Our law thus establishes a single deadly force threshold to meet, regardless whether you employ it or merely threaten it. This is important because it sets one bright line where you’re crossing into the deadly force arena and avoids confusing people with multiple standards in the midst of ultra high stress situations.

    It also tends to prevent situations from escalating in the first place: if there’s one big step to climb to reach the deadly force justification, then it’s easier for both parties to avoid taking that step, than if there were two or more smaller steps between here and there. Multiple steps of multiple standards for multiple degrees of response means more opportunies for miscues and misjudgments, and missed opportunities to stand down. In other words, don’t even introduce a firearm, at all, into the situation unless you’re ready to use it.

    What’s tricky is that people tend to equate different outcomes and different intentions, with different justifications. I certainly don’t want to penalize people for defending themselves successfully without firing a shot. Neither do I want to encourage people to threaten force that itself then makes firing a shot necessary. And I certainly don’t want to encourage “warning shots.”

    • Flat Wrong on this: “What is the case is that if the circumstances do not legally permit you to discharge the self defense firearm, then neither do they permit you even to threaten someone with it.”

      If I am allowed, by perp’s actions, to protect myself using simple force, I can draw down or present a knife (insert lethal tool here) – so long as I – at first – only intend to give the appearance of using it. If the perp continues the threat, then we have legal and tactical deliberate indifference by the perp. If he has a come to Jesus moment, we have a non-lethal DGU and the best outcome.

      Sec. 9.04. THREATS AS JUSTIFIABLE FORCE. The threat of force is justified when the use of force is justified by this chapter. For purposes of this section, a threat to cause death or serious bodily injury by the production of a weapon or otherwise, as long as the actor’s purpose is limited to creating an apprehension that he will use deadly force if necessary, does not constitute the use of deadly force.

      Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

      http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/PE/htm/PE.9.htm

      • The aggressor sets the rules, their actions are the “trigger” for lethal force. Always has been and always will be.

        And nice to see you out and about on the intratubes, Professor. I know running your own little slice keeps you busy!

        • Indeed the aggressor does trigger all. Another “Duh” response to my post.

          The point, the only point, is that there is only one trigger and that trigger legally justifies both threat of deadly force and the use of deadly force. There is no two stage trigger. If you’re justified to threaten deadly force, then you’re justified to use deadly force. Alternately, if you’re not justified in one, you’re not justified in the other.

          Now, whether you actually should follow through with a shot, once you draw and threaten deadly force, is another question entirely and not part of this discussion. That gets into other issues like what’s beyond your target, whether you can live with having seriously injured someone, and myriad other factors.

          The law sets this one single tripwire, or trigger, so that people only have one legal decision to make in that instant and so that people know there’s no middle ground on justification. So don’t go around threatening deadly force unless the situation is really serious enough to justify shooting. Really it’s just a legal version of not pointing at anything you don’t intend to destroy, because that destruction could well happen and if it does, you better have already had justification for it before you even pointed in the first place.

          That a couple of bright guys, staring at the Texas law’s simple text, can still be so confused by it, doesn’t bode well for typical Floridians trying to comply with their own new law.

      • Uh…..MacFly…..MacFly! That’s exactly what I just said!

        THREAT of deadly force is justified when USE of deadly force is justified. That means the the legal standard for each is identical. You’re allowed to draw and not fire, but only if drawing and firing would have been allowable, too. The circumstances that legally justify one would also justify the other. Since that is the totality of the justification for either, then the converse is also true: if you don’t have legal justification to threaten deadly force, then you don’t have legal justification to use deadly force. Sooo….what exactly are hou objecting to? What exactly am I “flat wrong” about?

        Sometimes I wonder who these people are, the ones whose perception of reality is so tenuous, that they disagree with a statement such as “A=A”, arguing “No, that can’t be true, because everyone knows that A=A!” Duh. That’s just what I said. You can’t disagree with something, by agreeing with it.

        Now, if your whole counterpoint is just your own personal opinion countering what you regard as my personal opinion, well, I guess our personal opinions can meet after school at the bike racks and fight it out. Except, this isn’t a matter of my personal opinion. The portion of my post you referenced is about the FACT of what constitutes legal justification in Texas, which you implicitly agreed with by posting the law’s text. So I’m not even sure what you’re objecting to.

        If you have some wider issue with what the law should be or what your own principles dictate is right or wrong, well, then write your elected representatives, but don’t waltz in shouting “flat wrong” when the plain black letter law is right there for all to read, and it matches what I posted. Sheesh.

  12. This TTAG post highlights something very important that all armed people should be aware of and check into in their particular state and locale, which is that under the law, “lethal force” can simply mean brandishing your weapon. You might think that using “lethal force” against an attacker actually means shooting the attacker, but LEGALLY speaking, it can simply mean having drawn your weapon.

    Everyone should check their local and state laws on this to know exactly what you’re legally doing if you do draw your weapon against a potential attacker.

  13. another victory for all law-abiding guns owners!!!! we also do have the same law in CA. Now, we are working on getting rid of the “Handguns Roster”. It’s great to see Californians fighting back! I don’t think CA is the worst state in America on guns control. please feel free to …”educate” me if I were wrong …but be gentle please. 🙂

  14. ” . . .Fortunately, in the Arizona case, there was a third 911 call that was independent of the two involved parties. It confirmed the version of events given by the permit holder, but was not revealed by the prosecution until just before the trial was to begin. . .”

    By not revealing critical evidence showing the permit holders innocence, it sure looks to me like the assistant DA’s were trying to get the permit holder accept a plea- bargained guilty plea. In addition to there being something bad wrong with militarized police forces, there’s also something bad wrong with American prosecutors who’d convict an innocent man just so they could increase their head-count.

  15. I expect prosecutors are going to try to use this to accuse people [who shot and killed people], of using too much force, and trying to convict them of murder.

    You can expect hearing “Why didn’t you fire warning shots?? You wanted to kill him.”

    If it comes to a point where lethal force is authorized… well, I’m AUTHORIZED TO USE LETHAL FORCE! Someone comes at me with a knife: I’m shooting him; someone comes at me with a metal bat: I’m shooting him.I’m not going to use “warning shots,” I’m shooting that person. Saying that I can use warning shots in that situation is ridiculous, and unnecessary, since we already have the right to use lethal force.

    • Hopefully, the lawyer defending you (or me) will be aware of the “disparity of force” concept. And the concept of time. If your metal bat/knife wielding BG is closer than 21 feet, you have less than 1½ seconds to act. I’m not wasting any of that time firing a “warning shot” that may do unintended property or personal damage. Plus, if the BG is a young, fit attacker, and the intended victim is (like me) no longer young & in optimal physical condition, the disparity of force is sufficient for me to act without firing a warning shot or waving my gun around shouting “Stop or I’ll shoot.” No time for that kind of nonsense. It’s not that I want to kill the BG. What I want is to survive the situation, and due to the time I have to act and the disparity of force issue there will be no warning shots from me.

      Naturally, there could *conceivably* be a situation where a warning shot *might* make sense, but in the vast majority of DGU situations it would be unnecessary, most likely even dangerous.

      I’m sure you’re right, though. some DA somewhere is going to try to make an example out of someone that commits the “crime” of staying alive. Sad.

    • Prosecutors with a weak case might pull that stunt, but I’d expect juries to see through it. There’s likely not time for a follow up shot should the warning shot fail to convince.

      The defense should argue that warning shots are themselves dangerous, perhaps reckless, so avoiding any shooting at all is preferable. The fact that there was no warning shot could be evidence itself of just how dire the situation was and that there was only one option, which did not include the luxury of some reckless warning shot.

    • Not all violent situations are that black and white Jon. Having seen more than my share, more than once I’ve seen would be attackers continuing to menace a person holding them at gun point even though the armed defender was already well within the legal threshold of justified lethal force. In one such incident it was a ‘warning shot’ that turned the situation from nearly certain death for the attacker into one in which both went their separate ways and the police were not even notified (though how that guy could see to leave after that muzzle flash in his face is beyond me).

      In addition to the myriad possibilities of an armed defensive situation, there are different people. I know from experience that I hesitate, a lot, and I’m not alone. I believe that in a good many DGU’s the purp isn’t shot due to a great amount of forbearance on the part of the armed defender. I’ve seen too many times situations in which shooting was more than justified and yet no shots were fired because it wasn’t strictly necessary. Sometimes the BG really does run away when you draw on him, other times he stands off a ways and runs his mouth. He’s still dangerous, and you wouldn’t want to put away your gun or turn your back, but it’s not necessary to shoot him though doing so may be justified. Further, in my personal experience, standing back with a threatening but now partially nullified at gun point rather than shooting is what most people actually do. If everyone shot every time they were justified in doing so there would be a lot more dead bodies and a lot more conversation about DGUs.

  16. I was afraid that he had watered down the stand your ground law into something that would be useless, but he actually in my opinion made it better. I am a former Florida resident and probably will be one again. I would much rather show a gun and have an aggressor wisely walk away, rather than have to shoot them. Good job Gov. Scott.

  17. Prosecutors are far too often simply out to charge people with whatever they think they can get a plea bargain out of. They have little to no interstate in fairness or justice. They are some of the worst scum of the Earth.

    • Some definitely are, as evidenced by some losing their jobs, their licenses and even their own freedom as a result, but I wouldn’t agree that they’re across the board evil.

  18. Why, on earth, if you’re to the point you must draw a firearm to defend yourself or others, would you waste ammunition by firing a warning shot????
    That’s just silly. If you draw the firearm and point it THATS WARNING ENOUGH!!!

    • Nope that’s not it.
      I didn’t have to.
      But I decided to cover a Loss Prevention guy as he was beating the crap out of shoplifter.
      Last time in the same position I did nothing and the LP guy got stabbed.
      Just having the gun in the bad guys face yelling give it up was enough to make him stop fighting.
      Now when the PBSO finally did show up.
      The only thing the Deputy Sheriff said to me as he came up was.
      Put that dammed thing away!!.
      Not always a need to shoot or even present a weapon.
      But nice to know I can now with even less possible troubles from the poopoo.

    • If you fire an unaimed shot you should be prosecuted, especially if it causes property damage, injury or death. Do not pull the trigger unless you’re aiming at what you intend to destroy, and what’s behind that.

      • That actually almost sounds reasonable, if you spend your life in a crowd. Come out here were the population is thinner. There are many places here you could close your eyes and shoot mindlessly all day and not hit anything of importance. Getting inside someone else’s DGU and rattling off absolutes sounds good until you really think about it, and realize that if a warning shot solved the problem, then a warning shot was a good idea. I tend towards letting the people in the DGU work out what is the right way to handle their DGU. If, in the end no one got hurt, they have done very well.

  19. Aint It Great In The Gunshine State??
    Not yet but getting better.
    Now next on the list is open carry, besides hunting and fishing.

  20. If they are going to make this a law they need to add a statute that protects people, who don’t use “threatened deadly force” before legally shooting someone in defense, from prosecution.

    It should say something along the lines of: Individuals who do not use “threatened deadly force” in or prior to the legal use of deadly force, will be shown as having no obligation to use “threatened deadly force,” and are immune to conviction due to omission of “threatened deadly force.”

  21. “It’s not uncommon for criminals to use the criminal justice system as a means of revenge.”

    Source?

    Because that statement does not ring true to me at all. Most criminals do not want the police attention “using” the criminal justice system gives. That’s one reason why criminals are, ironically, such a high risk group for being victimized (theft, assault, etc).

    • That falls under the heading of common knowledge. There’s the prevalence of SWATting people, for one. There’s all of the cases of divorcing spouses lying about the other, to gain monetary or custody advantage.

      There’s also the experience of every detective out there who’s ever solicited leads from the public. 99.9% of those leads go nowhere, but for a million different reasons. Some because people are just mistaken, some because something legitimate they saw simply appeared suspicious, and sometimes because people just want to feel like they’re helping or that they’re important. Some, though, call in tips specifically to try to jam someone up. Could be an ex, could be a rival, could be someone with a racist motivation, you name it.

      From my own lawyer, he’s had cases of an aggressive driver turning around and calling 911 on his client and claiming the client was the aggressor and brandished a gun. If you happen to be a concealed carrier, then that allegation is instantly plausible. Fortunately, in at least one of the cases mentioned, the client also had vehicle cam, so they could disprove the lie that he had waved a gun at the other driver. Still, that was some hassle and expense to deal with.

    • What they mean is that once caught and even if they know they are gulty, criminals will often try and make it look like they were the aggreived party. Something along the line of “there I was just minding my own business when this CCW guy pulls a gun on me….”

  22. You should check with the original sources before citing The Tallahassee Democrat who is in the Gun Ban Lobby’s pocket.

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