An already controversial Florida law commonly referred to as the “Stand Your Ground” Law, could be subject to a major change that will greatly benefit defendants in criminal cases. The proposed change, which already passed in the Florida House of Representatives on April 5, 2017, would essentially shift the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecution during a stand your ground motion.
Burden of Proof in Florida Stand Your Ground
Currently, a defendant has the burden of proof in a stand your ground motion under Florida Statute 776.032. A defendant must prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” (more likely than not) that he or she was “justified in using or threatening force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” Furthermore, deadly force in violent crimes is authorized when a defendant reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent “imminent death or great bodily harm.”
A stand your ground motion is generally filed prior to trial. If a defendant wins a stand your ground motion, he or she will be granted “immunity” for the crime and cannot be prosecuted. Because the legislature has traditionally placed the burden of proof on the defense for stand your ground motions, the defendant must generally submit testimony or evidence to the judge before the prosecution. This is contrary to the procedure in a jury trial where the State of Florida must call witnesses and submit evidence first since they have the burden of proof to prove the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Technically, in a jury trial, the defendant and his attorney can remain completely silent throughout the entire trial.
How Will Stand Your Ground Change Current Law?
The result of the proposed change in shifting the burden of proof in stand your ground motions from the defense to the prosecution could give defendants a huge advantage in alleged violent crime cases. First, since the prosecution will have the burden of proof, they will have the burden of submitting evidence and testimony in court. In some of these cases, witnesses will be unavailable, unreachable, or uncooperative. Previously, these witness issues could prejudice the defense since they have the burden of proof. However, the shift in the burden of proof will also shift the prejudice that comes with witness issues from the defense to the state.
Secondly, stand your ground motions often come down to the credibility of witness testimony. Sometimes, a decision on a stand your ground motion can be very difficult for a judge because he or she does not know who to believe. These close cases could be directly impacted by the shifting of the burden of proof from the defense to the prosecution. Previously, when the burden of proof was on the defense, these “50/50” cases would be won by the State of Florida. Now, if the burden of proof shifts to the State, the “50/50” cases should be won by the defense.
Florida Statute 776.032 – Visit Online Sunshine, the official website of the Florida Legislature for the full statutory language of the Florida stand your ground law.
Criminal Defense Attorney in Miami-Dade County, FL
If you, or anyone else you know, has been charged with a crime involving a possible self-defense or stand your ground claim, have them speak to a qualified criminal defense attorney to evaluate their case.
At Hubbs Law, we defend the rights of clients charged with violent crimes in Miami and throughout Miami-Dade County, including Miami Beach, Hialeah, Miami Gardens, North Miami, South Miami, Pinecrest, Kendall, Homestead, Florida.
We will listen to you, explain the charges and potential penalties in plain language, and talk about the possible defenses for the charges that have been filed against you. If you have a stand your ground defense, we will ensure that your pre-trial motions are filed.
Call Hubbs Law today at (305) 570-4802 to schedule a free initial appointment with E.J. Hubbs to discuss your case.