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Sen. David Simmons

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Senate votes to clear up ‘mistakes’ in self-defense law for homeowners

A bill clarifying that homeowners need not wait to be attacked inside their dwellings before resorting to defensive force passed the Senate Thursday.

CS/CS/SB 1052 would reconcile conflicting statutes involving self-defense, correcting drafting errors muddying the legal situation made in 2014 legislation, bill sponsor David Simmons said.

“Senators, this protects all of us in our own home. It’s rational. It’s reasonable. It brings us back to the way it was prior to the mistakes that were made in 2014, drafting errors,” Simpson said.

The Senate defeated efforts by Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez to clarify that force would have to be used against an aggressor.

He cited the 2012 Trayvon Martin case, in which George Zimmerman shot the teenager after following him through a neighborhood.

“You do have a duty to retreat if you provoke and you do not stand down,” Rodriquez said.

A provision in existing law says one must wait to be attacked before using force. But other provisions hold that the right of self-defense begins when one “reasonably” believes it is necessary, according to a staff analysis of the bill.

“They must actually believe — not only reasonably, but subjectively believe — that their lives are in danger, and they must reasonably act,” Simmons said at one point in the debate. “How much more do you want to impose upon a homeowner?”

Democrat Audrey Gibson said she agreed with the bill in principle but couldn’t vote for it on the floor — even though she had in committee.

“So much negative has gone on in various communities, particularly as it related to people of color,” Gibson said. “And if I stand here today and support what I do believe is right within your bill, there will be newspaper articles in district and across the state that say, ‘Gibson supports stand your ground’ — and that could not be further from the truth.”

Written By

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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