Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that Florida’s lawmakers overstepped their authority in updating the states stand your ground law. In ruling the law unconstitutional, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Milton Hirsch said that the changes have been made by the Florida Supreme Court instead of by the legislature. If you have been injured, call a Fort Lauderdale Attorney today to dicuss your possible case.
The Miami Herald reports that the 14-page order is a victory for prosecutors who have firmly opposed the law. Critics have said the law makes it easier for defendants to get away with murder and other violent crimes. “As a matter of constitutional separation of powers, that procedure cannot be legislatively modified,” Hirsch wrote in the order, The Herald reports.
Florida’s stand your ground law has long been criticized for fostering a shoot first mentality, by eliminating a citizens duty to retreat before using deadly force in responding to an apparent threat.
The legislature modified the 2005 statute, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law in June. The bill was supported by the National Riffle Association. The ruling is considered a victory for prosecutors who believed the changes in the law would make it easier for defendants to get away with murder.
The new law requires prosecutors to shoulder the burden of disproving a self-defense claim. State attorneys have said that essentially forces them to unfairly try a case twice, making it easier for criminals to escape justice. Under the law, prosecutors must prove by clear and convincing evidence that someone was not acting in self-defense. There was also concern that the update made it easier for judges to dismiss criminal charges if they deemed the act was self-defense, without a jury hearing the case.
The Miami Herald reports that in Miami-Dade County, judges have tossed out several high-profile murder cases after pre-trial immunity hearing, but they’ve also allowed others to go to a jury. The 2012 killing in Florida of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman opened a debate about the limits of self-defense. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder after jurors received instructions on Florida’s stand your ground law.
A second Miami judge has ruled that the Florida Legislatures recent decision to broaden the protection of the very controversial stand your ground self-defense law is unconstitutional. The Miami Herald reports that Circuit Judge Alan Fine issued the ruling recently in the case of a woman charged with attempted murder in a 2015 shooting.
The ruling adds to an ongoing legal fight over whether lawmakers overstepped their authority when they revised the law to shift the burden to prosecutors, who are now forced to disprove a defendants claim of self-defense in hearings mandated before any trial can take place.
Last month, Miami Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that under the state’s constitution, only the Florida Supreme Court could make that change. The state is challenging the ruling to an appellate court, putting the Florida Attorney Generals Office in the unusual position of siding with a criminal defendant. Statewide, prosecutors originally opposed the change to the law.