Stand your ground has always been controversial and this week’s ruling by a Miami judge will only add fuel to the controversy and debate. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch wrote that Florida legislators overstepped their authority when they passed a bill that many prosecutors criticized. Under the law, prosecutors must prove by “clear and convincing” evidence that someone wasn’t acting in self-defense, a standard prosecutors believe provide a legal loophole for people who commit crimes under the guise of self-defense.
Judge Hirsch ruled that courts, not lawmakers, should set the process by which defendants can claim they were protecting themselves with an act of violence, according to the ruling posted online by the Miami Herald.
The revision shifted the burden of proof during pretrial hearings to prosecutors, rather than defendants, to show whether force was used lawfully. Supporters saw the changes backed by the National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. gun lobby, as bolstering civilians’ rights to protect themselves. His unconstitutionality argument rests on a peculiarity of Florida constitutional law. Article 5, section 2(a) of the Florida Constitution provides that,
“The supreme court shall adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts …. Rules of court may be repealed by general law enacted by two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the legislature.”
Does the judge’s ruling affect Stand Your Ground overall? No, it doesn’t even though his decision will most likely be appealed. Stand Your Ground is here to stay. What may be on shakier ground is the Florida legislature’s decision to make it more difficult to prove that someone was NOT acting in self-defense.
Advocates predicted the ruling would be reversed on appeal.
“It is the role of the legislature to write the laws that govern how Floridians may exercise their statutory and constitutional rights,” Richard Corcoran, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, said in a statement. “The Florida House will continue to stand with ordinary citizens who exercise their right to self-defense.”