Warning Shot Bill Held Up In Senate Panel

Feb 11, 2014

A bill got held up that would amend the state’s Stand Your Ground law, after the measure ran into problems during a Senate hearing Tuesday.

The intent of the so-called “Warning Shot” bill is to fix the unintended consequences of Florida’s 10-20-Life Law. This year’s legislation is inspired by Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who fired a warning shot during an alleged domestic dispute and received a 20-year-prison sentence. During her initial trial, she claimed Stand Your Ground, but a judge said it didn’t apply.

Baker Republican Senator Greg Evers says he was also inspired to file the bill because of another case. In deference to that case and following a request from State Attorneys, he attempted to make a change to the bill Tuesday to remove aggravated assault from the 10-20-Life statute.

“The case I’m concerned with is the 72-year-old veteran who had a gun and was confronted, and fired a warning shot. The man had less than three years to live. He was going to die from cancer, and yet, because he wouldn’t take a three-year plea, they gave him 20 years,” said Evers.

But the Florida Sheriff’s Association opposed that move. They, along with the Florida Prosecuting Attorney’s Association, also had a problem with another amendment that attempted to further clarify when a person may lawfully use force in self-defense. It says if a person fires a warning shot without intending to cause harm, that’s only a threat to use force, not the actual use of deadly force. But, Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford disagrees. He says firing a warning shot could lead to a “deadly-force” situation.

“If I am confronted with someone who has—and we’re in a non-deadly force situation—we are in an argument, and they elevate that argument to a deadly force situation by pulling out a gun, I am now in self-defense responding to lethal force, because I don’t know what his intent is,” said Rutherford.

Another amendment expunging the record of a person exonerated because they legally used force to defend themselves wasn’t heard during the Senate Judiciary Committee because time ran out. Evers is expected to work with other lawmakers on the panel as well as the prosecutors and Florida Sheriff’s Association to iron out their concerns. The bill is expected to make another appearance next week.

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