Florida judge rules part of “Stand Your Ground” law unconstitutional

Florida judge rules part of “Stand Your Ground” law unconstitutional
A customer inspects a Glock 19 at a gun show in Miami on Jan. 9, 2016.
Source: Lynne Sladky/AP
A customer inspects a Glock 19 at a gun show in Miami on Jan. 9, 2016.
Source: Lynne Sladky/AP

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled unconstitutional the updated version of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law on Monday, the Miami Herald reported.

In his ruling, Hirsch wrote that lawmakers had violated the Florida constitution when they changed the law to require prosecutors to disprove any claims of self-defense at a pre-trial hearing, saying they violated the “constitutional separation of powers.” He concluded, “the statutory alternations in the burden and standard of proof in ‘Stand Your Ground’ cases are, as set forth hereinabove, unconstitutional.”

While his ruling is not binding throughout the state, the Herald reported, it may lead to further appeals and a review by the Florida Supreme Court.

So-called Stand Your Ground laws free individuals of any duty to retreat when they feel their life is in danger, as well as permit them to defend themselves with lethal force.

Putting the onus of proof for the prosecution to disprove a self-defense claim makes it significantly more difficult to prosecute alleged murders, and was a change highly sought by the National Rifle Association. As the Orlando Sentinel reported, the switch essentially flipped the burden of proof on murder cases throughout the state. Progressive critics labeled it a get-away-with-murder law.

Richard Corcoran, the GOP speaker of Florida’s House, responded to the ruling on Twitter, writing, “The Florida House will continue to stand with ordinary citizens who exercise their right to self-defense ... There’s a reason this judge is constantly overturned.”

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is one of many across the country that the NRA has aggressively supported. The law is immensely controversial and drew national prominence in the wake of George Zimmerman’s shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin, though Zimmerman ultimately chose not to invoke it in his defense.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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