TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court next week will hear arguments in a closely watched case about whether a controversial 2017 change to the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law should apply to older cases.
Justices are slated to hear arguments March 6 in an appeal filed by Tashara Love, who sought to use the “stand your ground” law to be shielded from prosecution in a November 2015 shooting incident outside a Miami-Dade County nightclub.
The legal issue centers on a 2017 change that shifted a key burden of proof in “stand your ground” cases --- a shift that can play a role in determining whether people claiming self-defense should be prosecuted.
Love’s attorneys contend that the change should be applied retroactively to defendants who were arrested before the 2017 law took effect but whose cases were pending. In Love’s case, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that the change should not apply retroactively. But that conflicted with a decision by the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which said the change should apply retroactively in a Hillsborough County case.
The Supreme Court agreed last year to hear Love’s case.
The “stand your ground” law says people are justified in using deadly force and do not have a “duty to retreat” if they believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. When the defense is successfully raised in pre-trial hearings, defendants are granted immunity from prosecution.
Before the 2017 change, the Supreme Court had ruled that defendants had the burden of proof in pre-trial hearings to show they should be shielded from prosecution. But with backing from groups such as the National Rifle Association, lawmakers shifted the burden from defendants to prosecutors to prove whether self-defense claims are justified. By placing the burden on prosecutors, the new version of the law could help at least some defendants in “stand your ground” cases.