Shooter Not Arrested Under Florida Stand Your Ground Law

July 24, 2018

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law is again being scrutinized nationwide after a young Clearwater father was shot to death during an argument over a handicapped parking space.  After more than a dozen years of criticism (often from those living outside the state of Florida), protestors continue to pressure lawmakers to repeal the bill. Many people consider the law too liberal in its allowances. Basically, these are laws that evolved from legal concepts documented as 17th-century English common law, which is based more on the assumption that the King and his soldiers would keep the peace and others should step aside.

Although dozens of other states have similar laws governing "stand your ground", it was a 2012 shooting death of Sanford (FL) teenage Trayvon Martin that initially drew national attention to our state's enacting the legislation. Martin was shot and killed by self-appointed "citizen on patrol" George Zimmerman, while the teenager was returning from a nearby convenience store to a house in a gated community. However, under our state's "Stand Your Ground" law, you do not have a "duty to retreat" before using force against a dangerous threat even though you could safely retreat. Initially, Zimmerman sought protection under the law to dismiss all criminal and civil proceedings.

As is often the case, many public and media criticisms are misdirected at the Florida law. There is no doubt that emotional responses can always be expected, especially in cases involving racial inequities and/or other human injustices. But, the truth is, in the Zimmerman trial and several others that invoked much of the passion, the actual case was not defended under the controversial clause for "Stand Your Ground" but was argued under the state's self-defense law. A law that is very similar to those in many other states. As for the most recent case where Michael Drejka shot and killed Markeis McGlockton, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri believed the state's "stand your ground" restrictions apply and has not arrested or charged Drejka.

It should be noted that the actions taken in this case so far are in response to the preliminary legal interpretations of "Stand Your Ground" provisions that do not allow for civil or criminal adjudication. What rightfully happens next is the case is forwarded to prosecutors for a final decision. But, only time will tell if shooter's actions will go on trial and which provision of Florida law is used in defense of those potential charges. Charges in this case could take up to three years, as the evidence is reviewed and the appropriate legal options are discussed.

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