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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

"Stand your ground" law changes inch toward full Senate vote

21

January

Senators debated on Thursday proposed changes to Florida's "stand your ground" law, clearing the way for a floor vote.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island -- the sponsor of SB 344 -- spent 20 minutes answering questions posed mostly by Democratic senators who probed the need for and implications of the bill.

Bradley's legislation would shift the burden of proof in a pre-trial hearing from defendants to prosecutors, requiring state attorneys to prove "by clear and convincing evidence" why a defendant could not claim "stand your ground" in self-defense cases.

He said the legislation is in reaction to a Florida Supreme Court last summer. Justices stated that defendants who claim a stand-your-ground defense have to prove before trial why they’re entitled to that immunity, but Bradley contends the justices "misinterpreted legislative intent" of the decade-old law.

"This bill brings full measure to what was done in 2005 and finishes the job and fairly and accuracy reflects what a true immunity hearing should be -- and that’s a hearing with the burden being on the state," Bradley said during Thursday's debate on the Senate floor.

Democratic Sen. Chris Smith, D- Fort Lauderdale, questioned the intent of the change, which has been described as a strengthening of the "stand your ground" law.

"This bill and this law is a way of avoiding trial," Smith said. "This is a way of not even going to a trial or going to a jury. This is a away of getting rid of it in front of a judge without a person’s peers looking at (it)."

Senators moved the bill to third reading, so it now needs to be scheduled on the calendar for a vote. It isn't slotted for the floor calendar for the next day of session, Jan. 28.

The House companion -- which required the demonstration of a higher burden of proof from prosecutors -- stalled in November in committee. Bradley said previously he wants his bill to pass out of the Senate and for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, to then take it up under messages directly on the House floor.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2016 7:18pm]

    

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