Authored by Marcus & Manning, P.A. Partner Michael Manning
This week in the Florida Legislature, the Senate Committee on Judiciary passed the Self-defense Immunity Bill, allowing the Bill to go before the Florida Senate during the 2017 session. The Bill would switch the burden of proof during “Stand Your Ground” immunity hearings from the accused to the State of Florida.
Currently, if a person claims immunity from prosecution based on the “Stand Your Ground” law, he or she must prove by the greater weight of the evidence that he or she is entitled to that immunity. However, if this Bill is passed, that burden would shift to prosecutors who, at a pretrial hearing, would have to prove the accused is not entitled to immunity beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the same burden the state must meet to convict a person of a crime at a trial. The shifting and heightening of the burden could lead to prosecutors conducting the “Stand Your Ground” pretrial hearing in nearly the same manner as a trial.
Last year, the same Bill was passed in the Florida Senate, but it did not become law after it failed in the Florida House of Representatives.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary also passed a bill entitled “Juvenile Citation and Similar Diversion Programs.” The bill would require law enforcement officers to issue a civil citation to a juvenile or place them in a diversion program instead of arresting the juvenile, if it was the juvenile’s first crime, he or she admitted to the offense, and the crime is one of the enumerated misdemeanor crimes in the legislation.
Additionally, for a juvenile committing a second or third misdemeanor crime, the bill would give officers discretion in issuing a civil citation or requiring participation in a diversion program instead of an arrest, if the juvenile admits to the crime.
In each of these situations, if an officer chooses to arrest the juvenile, the Bill would require the officer to provide written documentation detailing the reasons for an arrest.