Supporters of Florida’s expanded “stand your ground” self-defense law say they expect Monday’s ruling by a Miami judge striking down a revision made to the law last month will be thrown out in the appeals process.
“It (Monday’s ruling) is obvious it is so bad there are many, many items that set it up for appeal,” said Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and past president of the group.
The revision, which was signed into law last month by Gov. Rick Scott, made it easier for defendants in Florida to claim they were protecting themselves when they commit violence.
Under the original law, defendants were required to prove they were using force to defend themselves in stand your ground cases. The amended version shifted the responsibility to prosecutors to prove in pre-trial hearings whether force was used lawfully.
In Monday’s decision, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that the Legislature overstepped its authority and violated the separation of powers doctrine.
Hirsch wrote that the Legislature’s job was to enact “substantive” law. He said this year’s revision amounted to a “procedural” change which falls under the responsibility of the Florida Supreme Court.
Legislative leaders were quick to defend their authority to revise the statute.
“It is the role of the Legislature to write the laws that govern how Floridians may exercise their statutory and constitutional rights,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, in a series of tweets sent following the judge’s decision. “The Florida House will continue to stand with ordinary citizens who exercise their right to self-defense.”
In his decision, Hirsch says the constitutional separation of powers does not allow any of the three branches of government–executive, legislative and judicial–from interfering with the authority of another branch.
“It applies in such cases because experience with government has shown that any momentary benefit expected from a change in law is usually outweighed by the lasting detriment resulting from a change in our constitutional system of checks and balances,” Hirsch wrote.
Opponents of the amended law were quick to praise the judge’s ruling.
“Yet another ill-concieved [sp] law rammed thru the legislature by GOP is ruled unconstitutional. Pls stop,” state Rep. Carlos Smith, D-Orlando, said in a tweet after Monday’s ruling.
Backers of the revised law say there will be an appeal of the judge’s ruling and they are confident an appeals judge will overturn Hirsch’s decision.