Clear78° WeatherClear78° Weather

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hammer: Privacy trumps transparency in 'stand your ground' cases with dropped charges

20

March

Although she says she didn’t push a bill that is expected to pass the Florida House today, and which would extend “stand your ground protection” to people who fire a warning shot, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said she supports it.

That  includes an amendment by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, that was adopted by the House Wednesday night that would severely limit access to court records in the self-defense cases.

Gaetz said the intent of the amendment was to restore privacy for people who appropriately use the state’s “stand your ground” law in self-defense. Hammer said she had no hand in writing the amendment, but agrees with Gaetz that it is necessary.

“If you didn’t do anything wrong, why should you have a record that you did?” Hammer said Thursday. “Why would the public need to know that? A person’s right under the Constitution is to be free of persecution, so it’s not right that you could be persecuted because of something that is inaccurate, for something that you didn’t do.”

Under Gaetz’s amendment, which was passed by a voice vote Wednesday in the House, those whose charges are dropped by a prosecutor or judge based on an affirmative "stand your ground" defense could apply for a "certificate of eligibility" to expunge the "associated criminal history." According to the amendment, a court can only order the records be expunged after the defendant applies for it.

This could severely restrict court records available to researchers studying the implications of the 2005 law. A 2012 Tampa Bay Times investigation reviewed 200 cases, including ones that wouldn't be available if lawmakers approve the new language, and found that the law was used inconsistently and led to disparate results.

Hammer said it wasn’t the right of the public or media to do such research.

“It’s overreacch on the media’s part to think they need to know everything about everybody’s life,” Hammer said. “The media wants to know this so they can create news. Privacy is an important thing in America. When people arer wronged it should be repaired, and it shouldn’t be anybody’s business.”

The language from Gaetz’s amendment was adopted by the Senate in an amendment by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and adopted by the Judiciary Committee on March 4 to be included in a bill sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker.

Evers said during that meeting that it was a courtesy amendment.

Stacy Scott, public defender for the Eight Judicial Circuit, spoke in favor the amendment. It was adopted without objection by the committee. The bill will be discussed on the Senate floor later today. The House is scheduled to vote on it after 3:30 p.m.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 6:00pm]

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...