The Florida Public Defenders Association is backing the “Threatened use of force” bill, which was introduced by Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City.
The legislation, which some call the “Warning Shot” bill, allows an armed citizen to point their
defensive pistol at an attacker without fear of getting charged under Florida’s 10-20-life law, which requires mandatory minimum sentences for any crime involving a firearm.
The bill was prompted by the plight of Marissa Alexander, who was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a warning shot at her husband in 2010. An appellate court recently ordered that Alexander should receive a new trial, because her Duval County jury received improper instructions. She has since been released from prison.
Marion Hammer, an NRA past-president and USF Executive Director, also supports the legislation.
“10-20-Life was, and is, intended to put gun-wielding criminals in prison and keep them off our streets. Some prosecutors are treating law-abiding people like criminals,” Hammer said. “These are people who never would have been in the system had they not been attacked and in fear for their own safety. They are definitely not supposed to be charged under 10-20-Life”
“It seems that some prosecutors are going after them as ‘low-hanging fruit’ because they got trapped defending themselves. Self-defense is not a crime, it is a right and prosecutors are trampling those rights,” Hammer said. “Florida’s Public Defenders see this all the time. I believe their support of HB-89 recognizes the need to stop the abuse. The issue is not warning shots, it’s about protecting people from the abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”
According to latest draft, the bill would:
Provide criminal and civil immunity to those who threaten to use force if the threat was made in a manner and under circumstances that would have been immune under chapter 776, Florida Statutes, had force actually been used.
Clarify that those who threaten to use force may claim self-defense if the threat was made in a manner and under circumstances that would have been justifiable under chapter 776, Florida Statutes, had force actually been used.
Ensure that those who threaten to use force in a manner and under circumstances that are justifiable under chapter 776, Florida Statutes, are not sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment pursuant to s. 775.087, Florida Statutes.
Encourage those who have been sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment pursuant to s. 775.087, Florida Statutes, for threatening to use force in a manner and under circumstances that are justifiable under chapter 776, Florida Statutes, to apply for executive clemency.
And yes, this could likely include warning shots, despite the fact they’re not mentioned in the bill, and even though I can’t think of a single tactical scenario where a warning shot would have improved the situation.