A Miami judge has ruled that a new provision in the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law is unconstitutional because the legislature overstepped its rightful authority when it increased protections for defendants in self-defense cases.
Earlier this year the Florida legislature passed an amendment to its 2005 Stand Your Ground law. The amendment SB 128 (re-instated) that the prosecution carries the burden of proof in pre-trial hearings, of self-defense incidents. “Innocent until proven guilty” has always been a foundational tenet of the United States justice system. Well, that is until last week [again]. Floridians involved in self-defense shootings are now presumed guilty in pre-trial hearings [again]. According to the updated law, prosecutors were to provide “clear and convincing” evidence that a defendant was not using force as an act of self-defense. (This was in the original 2005 law and by-passed by over zealous prosecuting attorneys and judges.)
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch. a Democrat by the way, ruled on Monday that the amendment is unconstitutional, stating: “As a matter of constitutional separation of powers, that procedure cannot be legislatively modified.” Wow all this time I thought the reason we spend millions of dollars sending our legislators to Tallahassee every year was to make laws, guess I was wrong? The Florida legislature passed the amendment in response to a 2015 decision by the Florida Supreme Court. In that decision, the court held that defendants are not innocent until proven guilty in pre-trial hearings. Defendants must prove their innocence with evidence that suggests the shooting was legal self-defense. “The perp broke into my house, pulled a knife on me, I shot him he didn’t make it. I must now prove, I didn’t shoot him with intended malice? Or imagine you see a young, girl being attacked in broad daylight by criminals. Now, there’s little time to spare. Though you have called 911 it will be fifteen minutes, to a half hour before Law Enforcement arrives. Nervous, but determined to do the right thing, you pull out your weapon. Un-holstering, you call out a direct warning to let the girl go. They somewhat acknowledge you, but refuse to comply, leaving you no other option and little time. You aim and fire.
The girl is no longer in immediate danger, but thanks to the perpetrators she’ll be long in recovery. The criminals, on the other hand, will make a full recovery. They walk free while charges against you are pressed on their behalf. You are arrested and denied bail. You’ll be away from your family for over a year awaiting trial, and if convicted, you’ll never vote or be allowed to touch a firearm again. You try to remain calm, after all, the law is on your side, right? All that will be told via news is that you shot people. For that reason, you may serve up to 25 years in prison. As a convicted felon, your “victims” deserve hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial restitution. It may sound too awful to be true, but this is the direction this Miami Judge and our courts are moving.
Over the past half century there have been amended and reinterpreted laws all too often reducing the role of the American jury from a moral user of fact, to a mere rubber stamp for activist judges and politically-minded prosecutors, who can now come to an agreement amongst themselves to block the accused from even arguing they acted to save lives in the face of mortal danger. Anti Second Amendment prosecutors, and the legal traditions of self-defense and defense of others, the very heart of the Second Amendment, becomes meaningless. The gun-control lobby could achieve many of its goals without actually repealing the right to bear arms or passing further gun control laws.
Judge Hirsch found that the changes to the law were “procedural,” meaning only the Florida Supreme Court has the right to make them, as they did in 2015. Where one had to prove he/she fought in self defense. Hirsch’s decision doesn’t overturn the law, but it does begin the process that could end with another decision by the liberal Florida Supreme Court. Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told the Miami Herald he believes the legislature acted lawfully and the appeals process won’t reach the highest court in the state. “I would be surprised if this decision were upheld at the appellate level,” said Bradley, a former prosecutor who championed the amendment in question. Prosecutors for whatever reason vehemently opposed to the “Stand Your Ground” modification, arguing that the law would require them to try the case twice and make it easier for criminals to skate on violent charges. Since the defendant is asking for immunity from prosecution, they argue, the defendant should be required to prove they acted in self-defense”. There’s a strong concern that many more defendants will invoke the Stand Your Ground defense because they know it will shift more work onto the state attorneys on the front end.” But the amendment’s proponents argue that the state should not draw a distinction between seeking immunity at pre-trial hearings and pleading innocent at the trial itself.
“What this bill does, my friends, is put the burden of proof where I would, respectively, suggest it should rightfully be,” “From the beginning of a criminal case to the end, of a criminal case, it belongs with the state”. The standard of proof should be beyond a reasonable doubt.
~ George Pouliotte