President Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2017
Legislation to Protect Right to Self-Defense Passes First Senate Committee
The Senate Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Senator Greg Steube (R-Sarasota), today passed Senate Bill 128, Self-defense Immunity, by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island). The bill protects the right of self-defense for all Floridians by correcting a misinterpretation of the “Stand Your Ground” law in the 2015 Bretherick vs. State Florida Supreme Court decision.
“The Senate passed legislation to clarify this critical constitutional issue last year, and I am pleased to see Senator Bradley’s bill advance again today,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). “If the State of Florida is going to accuse a citizen of committing a crime, the State of Florida should have the burden of proof at each and every part of the proceeding to prove guilt beyond the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.”
Senate Bill 128 clarifies the government, not the accused, has the burden of proof in a “Stand Your Ground” immunity hearing. In a 5-2 decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled otherwise.
“This is a fundamental American right guaranteed by our Constitution. A defendant always has the presumption of innocence and the state always has a burden of proof,” continued President Negron.
SB 128 changes the burden of proof and who must bear it during pretrial hearings to evaluate a defendant’s claim of immunity based on a justifiable use of force. Current law provides a defendant a right of immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action if he or she is justified in using force. Although the procedures to claim immunity are not specified by statute, the Florida Supreme Court has determined that defendants must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the entitlement to the immunity at a pretrial hearing. The bill places the burden of proof on the state and requires the state to overcome the immunity claim by offering evidence meeting the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Senator Bradley sponsored the same legislation, Senate Bill 344 (2016) last session, and it passed the Florida Senate. The bill died in committee in the Florida House.