Panel approves 'stand your ground' changes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - It is one of the most controversial laws on the Florida books and now a Senate panel has approved making changes to the "stand your ground" law.

The bipartisan bill is aimed at clarifying the use of deadly force and it will add more training to neighborhood watch groups based in cities throughout the state of Florida. 

The bill will add changes to the use of deadly force based on recommendations from Gov. Scott's Citizen Safety and Protection task force -- a measure the governor used in 2012 to re-examine the highly debated "stand your ground" self-defense law after neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was acquitted of the high-profile shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The law was never invoked in his case but became a topic of conversation.

The bipartisan bill would:

  • Clarify that a law enforcement agency must fully investigate whether a person claiming self-defense has lawfully used force. It also would no longer preclude lawsuits from third parties who are injured by negligent conduct used in self-defense.
  • The measure would also require the Department of Law Enforcement to develop a training curriculum for participants in neighborhood crime watch programs and require local law enforcement agencies to apply the curriculum when training program participants.

Currently, many neighborhood watch groups use an online system called Next Door to share issues and monitor their communities, but Jim Robson, president of the Murray Hill Preservation Association, said training from law enforcement would be empowering.

"I think that would be excellent because I run into people all the time who would like to get involved in a crime watch program but they are a little timid because they don't know what to do," Robson said. "A training program would let them come out and participate without having that hesitation."

Next, the bill goes to the Senate's community affairs committee and the rules committee. That action could happen as early as next week.

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