911 Good Samaritan Act
Bill protects those who seek help
One of the most sensible bills passed by the Florida Legislature during the 2012 session is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott's signature. The 911 Good Samaritan Act protects people who seek or obtain medical assistance during a drug-related overdose from pr osecution for simple drug possession. Research shows that when someone in America overdoses, a call for help occurs less than 50 percent of the time; fear of police involvement is the most common reason for not calling 911.
This legislation will help prevent unnecessary deaths by making sure that people — even those who possess a controlled substance — call 911 without hesitation during an emergency.
Research shows that students who are aware that a Good Samaritan policy is in effect are 2.5 times more likely than students who expect to face punishment to call for help when witnessing an overdose. Furthermore, a study of over 350 opiate users found that 88 percent were more likely to call 911 during future overdoses after they became aware of the Good Samaritan law in Washington state.
The 911 Good Samaritan Act earned unanimous, bipartisan support in all committees and on the floor of the Senate and near-unanimous support in the House. It has the support of the Police Benevolent Association, the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association.
Cody Swingle, Tallahassee
Out-of-state tax bills might sink companies March 29, commentary
Outrageous tax policy
It is outrageous that Michigan can strong-arm a small Florida boat manufacturer, with no presence in Michigan, for $376,000 in "corporate taxes" for merely delivering a few boats that were ordered by Michigan residents. Total sales in Michigan? Some $100,000 less than Michigan demands in taxes.
But wait — sometimes there is an opportunity in dark settings. How about if the Florida Department of Revenue sends multibillion-dollar tax bills to Chrysler, Ford and GM, all headquartered in Michigan? And not one Chrysler, GM or Ford car can be sold in Florida until they pay up.
Patrick Seery, Ruskin
Going far beyond standing ground | April 1
Let juries decide
This well-written, well-documented article clearly hits the nail on the head: Why are officials regularly dismissing cases of an armed person killing an unarmed person without a trial by jury?
The jury system allows for testimony, evidence and witnesses, all of which are eliminated when officials dismiss a case. My best guess is that several of these dismissed attacks are legitimate self-defense and several are manslaughter/homicide. Ben Montgomery presents a very persuasive argument that this law undermines a legal system that has worked well for centuries.
Tom Burke, Clearwater
Rights go both ways
Every day I see stories about Florida's "stand your ground" law, but I have yet to read about the right of Trayvon Martin to take a stand to protect himself from George Zimmerman.
From the news accounts, Zimmerman took it upon himself to become a one-man police force to pursue and possibly detain Trayvon Martin. We do not know what Trayvon was doing that gave Zimmerman the impression he needed to follow him. Where does Trayvon's right to stand his ground come into the picture?
Kenneth DeKing, Zephyrhills
Law must be fixed
I have carried a concealed weapon most of my life. I belonged to the NRA in the past and am a firm believer in the right of citizens to own and bear arms. But to do so, the armed citizen should be trained and practice regularly to maintain shooting skills.
I am not a fan of Florida's "stand your ground" law. It makes sense for someone to protect self, family and property. But this law allows aggressors to claim they are a victim.
It is not reasonable for the aggressor to be able to claim the "stand your ground" law. In any case, the facts must be examined by the judicial system before there is a rush to judgment. Each case stands on its own merits.
This is one of many flawed laws in Florida. It needs to be amended or repealed.
Robert Weisman, Tampa
Apply law properly
So, a law should be repealed just because it allegedly has been applied incorrectly? If application is the problem, then logic would dictate that the solution is correcting the application, not the law.
All laws are tested in the crucible of application. Therefore, apply it. If prosecutors were more willing to let juries decide if those accused "reasonably" believed "that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm," then the actual applications might support the law's original intent.
The assertion by some lawyers that the magnitude of felt fear can be evaluated using only the criteria existing at the exact moment a gun is fired clearly is too simplistic. Whether fear is "reasonable" at the instant a gun is fired certainly can be determined at least to some relevant degree by actions leading up to the event. Ultimately, a jury, not a prosecutor, determines whether or not the claimed fear is reasonable, so give the jury an opportunity to decide.
Douglas Campbell, Wimauma
It's become a racket | March 31, letter
Search for justice
After reading this letter, I wondered what anyone could have against justice — because that is exactly what Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton came to Sanford to get for Trayvon Martin's family.
The issue is not race. What matters is that an unarmed kid was killed by an adult for no apparent good reason, and that child's family deserves justice.
Erik Knight, Tampa
Cat rescue takes a bit of a village | March 30
Has anyone ever heard of a cat dying in a tree? No. Cats will get down when they are ready to get down. It's about time we stop wasting taxpayers' money on services that are not needed. I love animals, but this really is not needed.
Pete Miller, Tampa