The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman trial not only inflamed racial controversy, it sparked a national discussion about whether laws such as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” are just.
Our Broward felony defense attorneys know that even President Barack Obama has weighed in on the matter, suggesting that states review their laws. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has said that such a review would be appropriate for his state and the governor recently backed that call.
Similar laws exist in a number of states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Ohio and California.
However, as it turns out, Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, under Florida Statute 776.013, may be applicable to a wider range of cases – not just in murder trials.
The most recent example of this was a ruling made recently by the 4th District Court of Appeal. The decision was that a middle school student who got into a fistfight with a girl on a Broward County school bus should have been allowed to use the Stand Your Ground defense in order to defend himself and his actions.
The appellate panel further chastised the circuit court judge presiding over the case for denying the boy the opportunity to use the defense while challenging a charge of battery pending against him.
Ultimately, the boy was convicted and subsequently sentenced as a juvenile.
The lower court judge had initially ruled that the Stand Your Ground defense wouldn’t apply in this case because the young teen wasn’t defending his home or his vehicle.
However, the appellate court judge said the law would still be applicable because the boy had every right to be on that school bus. Therefore, he had no duty to retreat when he felt threatened.
As such, the appellate court overturned the boy’s conviction and said the circuit court judge should consider that the teen was acting within his rights under the Stand Your Ground law.
We don’t know a whole lot about the original incident, as it was a juvenile case and those are handled much differently than adult cases in terms of public access. What we do know from appellate court records was that the boy and girl were on the same school bus, heading home for the day, when a fight erupted. The school bus driver indicated that the girl had grabbed a hold of the boy’s jacket and punched him before pulling him back down on the seat. At this point, the boy began to fight back.
The girl’s testimony, however, was that the boy attacked her unprovoked.
The appellate court’s ruling didn’t address whether it believed any singular version of events. The issue is whether, if the boy’s version is believed, he had a right to meet force with force on that school bus.
Appellate court judges said he did. However, the question of whether that force was justified under the argument, or whether it was necessary to prevent death or bodily harm, is a factual question that must be answered by the lower court. In other words, the lower court has to decide who started the fight and if it was the girl, whether the boy responded in a way that was within his rights under the law.
If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Stand Your Ground applies to school bus fight, appeals court rules, July 17, 2013, By Rafael Olmeda, Sun Sentinel
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