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Stand Your Ground-Related Bill Starts Moving In Florida House

Florida Channel
Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, (left) and Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, (right) debate a Stand Your Ground-related bill during the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Wednesday.

A controversial Stand Your ground-related bill is now starting to move in the House.

Today, if someone accused of using any type of force claims Stand Your Ground, they have to prove their self-defense claim is justified in a pre-trial hearing. But, a bill that passed its first House committee Wednesday will now shift that burden to the prosecutors.  Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs) says that’s wrong.

“It’s blanket immunity,” he said. “And, then we’re saying to the prosecution, you have to undo that immunity if you enough evidence. And, oh by the way, you have to do it in the pre-trial hearing, when usually all the witnesses may not have been identified or the evidence may not have been gathered at that point. It’s still an ongoing process.”

But, Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa) disagrees.

“Where a witness will not show up or a case cannot be made…that is not the defendant’s problem,” he said. This is a simple question of, ‘do you think it should be harder to lock people up or easier, when you cannot reach the burden?’”

While proponents say the bill clarifies the legislative intent of Stand Your Ground, opponents say the Florida Supreme Court already decided in 2015 to keep the burden with the defendants. They also argue it will lead to a huge spike in cases, reduce victims’ willingness to testify, and is an unfunded mandate for prosecutors.

About a third of House lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors to Rep. Bobby Payne's (R-Palatka) bill. His measure has one more stop before heading to the House floor. Meanwhile, its Senate companion is already headed to the floor.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.