‘Stand your ground law’ stands


There are no surprises in the report from the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, which was released late last week.

The stand-your-ground law stands, as is.

The task force was formed in the wake of the controversial Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford – a case that has yet to be adjudicated.

Its mission was to review Chapter 776, Florida Statutes – the deadly force laws – and conduct a listening campaign around the state, hearing from Floridians who support or oppose the “stand” law.

Once done traveling, the group was told to make a report to the governor and the legislature, to ensure the rights of all Floridians and visitors were protected,” including the right to feel safe and secure in our state.”

Kristy Peoples wanted the stand your ground defense applied to her husband Chyvas Peoples who is serving 30 years for second degree murder. Staff photo by Lee Williams

The 19-member group, which was co-chaired by Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll and Reverend R.B. Holmes, Jr., held public hearing in seven cities: Tallahassee, Longwood, Arcadia, West Palm Beach, Cutler Bay, Jacksonville, and Pensacola.

I attended a task force meeting in Arcadia. Many individuals came to ask for help with a host of personal issues, but there were basically two types of people at the hearing: those who believed Trayvon Martin was murdered, who worried that a similar killing could befall their community, and gun-rights groups. The former believed the law goes too far in allowing self-defense claims to free those who kill when violence could be avoided.

The task force was very good about giving both sides their say.

According to their report, the task force received “16,603 pieces of correspondence, 711 phone calls, 64 comment cards, 160 public comments.”

The group’s first “core recommendation” says all you need to know:

  • The Task Force concurs with the core belief that all persons, regardless of citizenship status, have a right to feel safe and secure in our state. To that end, all persons who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be.

There are seldom clear answers when deadly force is used. Everything is grey.

Even though the law remains unchanged, an armed citizen who uses deadly force should be prepared for up-close and personal contact with law enforcement, and the strong possibility of a civil suit, regardless of the immunity clause embedded into the statute.

Here are the task force’s recommendations:

Core Recommendations

After holding seven public meetings across the state, hearing from a broad array of relevant subject matter experts, and considering 16,603 pieces of correspondence, 711 phone calls, 64 comment cards, 160 public comments at Task Force meetings, and over 30 documents, the Task Force recommends the following:

1. The Task Force concurs with the core belief that all persons, regardless of citizenship status, have a right to feel safe and secure in our state. To that end, all persons who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be.

2. The Task Force recommends the Legislature examine the term “unlawful activity” as used in Chapter 776, Florida Statutes and provide a statutory definition to provide clarity to all persons, regardless of citizenship status, and to law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judiciary.*

*Discussed definition of “unlawful activity” to give guiding language to the courts to ensure uniform application of the law with the intent to protect the innocent person.

a) Task Force member State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle proposed the definition of “unlawful activity” should exclude noncriminal violations as defined in Section 775.08(3), Florida Statutes.

b) Task Force member Judge Krista Marx proposed that the definition should include temporal proximity of the unlawful activity to the use of force.

c) Task Force member Public Defender Stacy Scott proposed that the definition of “unlawful activity” should exclude some county and municipal ordinance violations.

d) Task Force member Edna Canino proposed that the definition exclude citizenship status.

The Task Force heard a number of examples related to the definition of “unlawful activity” used in Chapter 776, Florida Statutes. Questions were raised including whether the term applied to all unlawful activity including misdemeanors, ordinances, and minor traffic violations. Without a clear definition of the term “unlawful activity” the potential for inconsistent application of the law across the state may occur.

3. The Task Force recommends associations, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judiciary increase training and education regarding self defense laws to ensure uniform and fair application of Chapter 776, Florida Statutes, and other related criminal statutes.

The Task Force heard testimony from citizens, law enforcement, prosecutors, and public defenders that Chapter 776, Florida Statutes, although well intended, may not always be fairly and equitably applied across the state.

The Task Force heard examples of specific self defense cases where individuals felt the law was
not fairly applied. Although the Task Force’s mission was not to retry individual cases, there was enough evidence presented to suggest that education among the parties including law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the judiciary, and the citizens of the State of Florida could contribute to a more uniform, just, and fair application of the law.

4. The Task Force recommends the Legislature review applicable standards for recognized neighborhood watch groups, as defined in Section 30.60 and Section 166.0485, Florida Statutes, to define the role of neighborhood watch participants as limited to observing, watching, and reporting potential criminal activity to law enforcement. The participant’s purpose is not to pursue, confront, or provoke potential suspects.

The Task Force heard testimony from a neighborhood watch volunteer, crime prevention coordinator, and private security companies regarding standards for neighborhood watch groups. The standards for neighborhood watch groups ranged from the loosely organized to sophisticated organizations that employed written policies and procedures and strict standards for volunteers.

The Task Force learned through these presentations that neighborhood watch volunteers
are residents of their respective communities who volunteer their time; however, there are usually no requirements to participate or training provided to them. This could result in occurrences of volunteers acting outside the scope of the intent of neighborhood watch, which is to observe and report only, not to pursue, confront, or provoke potential suspects.

5. The Task Force recommends the Legislature examine the definition of “criminal prosecution”, as defined in Section 776.032(1), Florida Statutes, to remove any ambiguity for law enforcement to fully complete their investigation.

The Task Force heard examples from law enforcement expressing concern for the definition of “criminal prosecution” and the affect of that definition on law enforcement’s ability and authority to investigate, detain or arrest a person engaged in use of force.

6. The Task Force has considered the Florida Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Peterson v. State. The Task Force believes the pre-trial adversarial proceeding set out in that case is proper.

The Task Force reviewed the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Peterson v. State, which established a pre-trial adversarial proceeding for determining immunity for an individual claiming self-defense. Absent a clear procedure in current law for granting immunity under Section 776.032, Florida Statutes, the Florida Supreme Court established this procedure. The Task Force has determined that this procedure is adequate.

7. The Task Force recommends the Legislature consider whether the civil immunity provision should extend to innocent third-party victims. The Task Force discussed the possibility of innocent third-party victims being injured or killed during use of force incidents. Although an individual may be granted civil immunity for their use of force during that incident, it is not clear whether that immunity would apply even when innocent third-party victims are injured or killed due directly to the actions of that individual.

8. The Task Force recommends the Legislature consider funding further study of the correlation and causation to include variables such as race, ethnicity, gender, application and fairness of the law in regards to the expansion of self defense laws in the State of Florida, including a statistical comparison with other states. The Task Force recommends any report be issued by 2015 with periodic updates.

The Task Force enlisted the assistance of the University of Florida, Levin College of Law, in compiling and analyzing data related to the use of force in defense of self and others within the State of Florida. Professor Monique Worrell of the university presented her findings to the members at the meeting held in West Palm Beach. During her presentation, Professor Worrell provided data related to trends in homicides, justifiable homicide claims, crime rate, gun license applications, and tourism. However, Professor Worrell pointed out that conclusions regarding the impact of recent changes to Chapter 776, Florida Statutes, could not be drawn without a more complex analysis of the data.

9. The Task Force recommends the Legislature review Florida’s 10-20-Life law to eliminate any unintended consequences.

10. Vice Chair R.B. Holmes, Jr., State Attorney Kathleen Fernandez Rundle, and Public Defender Stacy Scott each submitted other specific recommendations, which are included in Appendix E of this report.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

1 Comment

  1. Meetup Message from: Tom Pastore, via Florida Conservatives with Purpose
    Please Help support our Right to defend ourselves in Florida,….”Sign Petition to maintain, “Stand Your Ground” Laws.

    Can you (Please sign this Petition, and), assist in getting this message out? Thanks

    From Thomas Pastore,

    I ask you all to please support this Petition to continue the preservation of the “Stand Your Ground” Laws in the State of Florida!! We must Never bow down to the Mis-informed, and the Mis-represented, who are attempting to remove a Law that has served citizens of all ethnicities, and races in this very state.Please sign this. Please sign this……………….please click on the Link and sign this!!!

    **I further ask that you Forward this to ALL Friends and Family to also sign this Petition. Thank You !!

    Subject: American Citizens has sent you a message;……..

    Note to forward to your friends:

    I just signed the petition “Government of the State of Florida: Maintain the “Stand Your Ground Laws”” on Change.org.

    It’s important. Will you sign it too? Here’s the link:




    This email was sent by Change.org to wetheepeople@aol.com.
    Didn’t sign this petition? Click here.
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    Start a petition on Change.org

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