Bill to Modify Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Introduced

October 7, 2021 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

What is Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law?

HB 73, called “The Self-Defense Restoration Act,” entered the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee on September 17th. This bill was introduced by civil rights attorney and State Representative Michele Rayner and would alter Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. The law, codified in Section 776.013 of the Florida Statutes, answers the question of if and when there is a duty to retreat. According to the statute, a person who is in a dwelling or residence in which the person has the right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground against intruders. Deadly force can only be used if the person reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or others or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. If you would like to read more about the history of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground Law, click here.

What Would the Bill Change?

The bill seeks to ratify, what Representative Rayner states, is a confusing statute and “reimposes the duty to retreat if possible before a person uses deadly force to defend themselves.” The bill  would delete provisions within Chapter 776 that states a person does not have the duty to retreat if possible before using deadly or physical force. The bill “would add language that deadly force could not be used if the person knows that he or she can avoid the necessity of using deadly force with complete safety by retreating.” Furthermore, the bill would repeal Section 776.032 of the Florida Statutes entirely, which grants immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for those who are found to justifiably use force under Sections 776.012, 776.013, and 776.031.  Ultimately, the ratification also seeks to address that Florida’s law, as well as similar Stand Your Ground Laws throughout the country, have been applied disproportionally to Black and Brown people as well as low-income individuals.

The Inspiration Behind the Bill

Rayner’s interest in amending the bill came as a result representing the parents of Markeis McGlockton, an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot in the summer of 2018 during a dispute over a handicapped-accessible parking space in a convenient store parking lot in Clearwater, Florida. The man who shot McGlockton, Michael Drejka, was not initially charged because he argued he was standing his ground. While McGlockton was inside and his girlfriend waited in the car, Drejka, who had a “pet peeve” about people illegally parking in handicapped spots, walked around McGlockton’s car looking for a handicapped sticker. McGlockton pushed Drejka to the ground, and Drejka pulled out his gun and aimed it at McGlockton. McGlockton made no verbal threats, and security footage revealed McGlockton was backing away from Drejka when he was shot in the chest, killing him. In 2019, Drejka was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to twenty years in prison. Another attorney for McGlockton’s family, Ben Crump, stated that the conviction and sentence “was important not just for the family of Markeis McGlockton, but it was also important for the spirit of Trayvon Marin and all the victims of the stand your ground murders.”

The Bill’s Likelihood of Success

Rayner recognizes the implementation of the Self-Defense Restoration Act will be difficult to achieve given the Legislature is mostly comprised of Republicans. This is because generally, Republicans have historically been in favor of the law. Whether or not Governor DeSantis signs the bill into law, the bill has certainly continued the conversation about the effectiveness of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, as well as Stand Your Ground Laws throughout the nation.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

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