Thursday, December 14, 2017
Politics

Burden of proof in 'stand your ground' cases set to change in Florida

TALLAHASSEE — The Legislature passed a bill that would make Florida the state the first to place the burden of proof in "stand your ground" pretrial hearings on the prosecution rather than the defendant.

The Senate passed the bill Friday on a 22-14 vote, just hours before it would have died on the last day lawmakers considered non-budget related bills.

The Senate had earlier refused to consider changes the House made to the bill, then accepted them when the House stood its ground on its position.

The Senate bill originally said prosecutors have to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that a defendant wasn't acting in self-defense. The House changed that language to the lower threshold of presenting "clear and convincing evidence."

Defendants now have to prove they were acting in self-defense to avoid a trial.

It was the only major piece of gun-related legislation to pass this year, among about two dozen lawmakers had proposed. Another bill related to "Stand Your Ground" also passed (SB 1052) this session; it made essentially only technical changes to the law that were relatively non-controversial.

Florida volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who lobbied aggressively against SB 128, said they were "deeply concerned" by the bill's passage and are urging Scott to veto.

"This expansion would place an enormous burden on our state's hardworking prosecutors, and further create a 'shoot first, ask questions later' culture that would threaten the lives of people in our state, especially those in marginalized communities," said Michelle Gajda, a volunteer state chapter leader for Moms Demand Action. "I am incredibly disappointed that Gov. Scott is expected to sign this dangerous measure instead of listening to the legitimate concerns raised by gun violence survivors and state prosecutors."

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