President Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2017
Senate Passes Legislation to Protect Right to Self-Defense
The Florida Senate today passed Senate Bill 128, Self-defense Immunity, by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island). The bill protects the right of self-defense for all Floridians by correcting a misinterpretation of the “Stand Your Ground” law in the 2015 Bretherick vs. State Florida Supreme Court decision.
“For the second year in a row, the Senate passed legislation to clarify this critical constitutional issue. Under our Constitution, Floridians accused of crimes, no matter how serious, are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This legislation affirms that constitutional right, clarifying that the state of Florida has the burden of proof at each stage of every proceeding to prove your guilt beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart).
Senate Bill 128 clarifies that the government, not the accused, has the burden of proof in a “Stand Your Ground” immunity hearing. In a 5-2 decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled otherwise.
“A defendant always has the presumption of innocence and the state always has a burden of proof,” said Senator Bradley. “This fundamental premise is guaranteed in our Constitution and understood intuitively by all Floridians. Fidelity to the Constitution is our most important responsibility as legislators, and I am pleased to see this legislation earn the support of my Senate colleagues today.”
SB 128 changes the burden of proof and who must bear it during pretrial hearings to evaluate a defendant’s claim of immunity based on a justifiable use of force. Current law provides a defendant a right of immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action if he or she is justified in using force. Although the procedures to claim immunity are not specified by statute, the Florida Supreme Court has determined that defendants must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the entitlement to the immunity at a pretrial hearing. The bill places the burden of proof on the state and requires the state to overcome the immunity claim by offering evidence meeting the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Senator Bradley sponsored the same legislation, Senate Bill 344 (2016) last session, and it passed the Florida Senate. The bill died in committee in the Florida House.