Florida’s stand your ground law (Chapter 776 §776.012) is a law that was enacted that allows an individual to use or threaten to use force against another person when they believe that “conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” An individual is also justified in using or threatening to use deadly force “if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.” When a person uses or threatens to use force or deadly force in accordance with the law, they do not “have a duty to retreat and have the right to stand his or her ground if the [person applying the force] is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place [they are permitted to be].”
While the stand your ground law has helped relieve many from being criminally charged for physically harming or even killing another individual after their life was threatened, it has caused a great deal of controversy. The fact is, many individuals have used and continue to use the law as their line of defense after physically harming or fatally injuring another person, even when they don’t have viable grounds to claim self-defense under the stand your ground law. The case involving 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman serves as a prime example of this.
Now, although the law carries both pros and cons, a recent court ruling made on December 13, 2018, may have only made it more controversial.NBC News highlighted that the court ruling states that Florida police offices can invoke the stand your ground law given it applies. The reason being is that “a law enforcement officer is a ‘person’ whether on duty or off, and irrespective of whether the officer is making an arrest,” says Justice Alan Lawson. Not only may this new ruling make things even worse for civilians who come in contact with aggressive or abusive police officers, but it “may end of creating confusion and grant police officers increased latitude under a law that has been under scrutiny and criticized as one of the broadest in the nation since it was enacted in 2005.”
What led to the court ruling in favor of allowing police to use the stand your ground law as their defense?
The court ruling was made after a case stemming back to 2013 involving a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who shot a 33-year-old black male made its way into the courtroom. According to the news source, Officer Peter Peraza was dispatched to a location after calls came in claiming Jermaine McBean, 33, was seen walking with an air rifle. McBean had just purchased the air rifle, which was unloaded, from a pawnshop and he had earbuds in his ears at the time. Given the circumstances and the fact that witnesses had claimed he was acting aggressively, Peraza arrived and demanded McBean drop the weapon.
When McBean, who likely couldn’t hear the officer’s commands on account of the earbuds he was wearing, failed to drop the weapon and was accused of pointing the air rifle at Peraza, he was shot to death. The source cited that witnesses to the incident denied that McBean had pointed the rifle at Peraza before he opened fire.
Peraza was later “indicted on a manslaughter charge in 2015 and used the stand your ground defense to avoid trial by saying that he feared for his life when McBean didn’t comply.” The case was dismissed, although an appeals court disagreed [with the ruling] which sent it to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided to rule in favor of Peraza and allowed him to invoke the stand your ground law.
As you already know, police officers are given the right to apply force and even deadly force but seeing that they can now claim the stand your ground law, it only makes it harder to hold them accountable when they abuse their power. With that said, if you are ever mistreated by a Broward County officer, it is essential you contact a Broward County, FL police brutality lawyer immediately. Trying to prove they mistreated you will be a challenge, but you do stand a chance when you retain the right type of police misconduct attorney to take on the job.