Righting a Wrong Created by the Courts and Overzealous Prosecutors

“If the state of Florida is going to accuse a citizen of committing a crime, the state of Florida should have the burden of proof at each and every part of the proceedings.”

Yesterday was a huge step in the right direction for Constitutional believers and concealed carry license holders in Florida. The ripple effect could be felt nationwide.

Gov. Scott (R) of Florida signed SB-128 into law, correcting what many, especially the legislators in Florida who wrote the original “Justifiable Use of Force”, thought was a travesty of the courts.

What many people who are unfamiliar with self-defense laws do not know is that in Florida if you used a firearm or any other weapon in self-defense, before this Bill was signed into law, you had to have a hearing before a Judge and the prosecution to prove you used it in self-defense. This was the only way to be able to claim self-defense immunity. Yes, you read that correctly, you had to prove in a court of law that you were innocent.

Now I am not an educated lawyer, nor a judge, but I have a bit of experience in the legal system. Being a staunch Constitutionalist and believer in the Bill of Rights as they are written, even I know that it is a basic tenant of the U.S. Judicial System that everyone is “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”. The burden of proof rests on the prosecution, not the defendant. In other words, you should not have to prove you are innocent, the state should have to prove you are guilty.

But after Florida passed the “Justifiable Use of Force” laws, the Florida Supreme Court tried to legislate by creating a hearing where defendants who used self-defense force had to prove they were justified in doing so. That goes against everything this country stands for and our entire legal system. So, the legislators decided it was time to fix this error by the courts as well as the judges. They’ve made it known that judges and prosecutors do not make law in Florida, or any other state for that matter.

The legislators wrote a simple paragraph that fixed this un-constitutional issue.

“(4) In a criminal prosecution, once a prima facie claim of self-defense immunity from criminal prosecution has been raised by the defendant at a pretrial immunity hearing, the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence is on the party seeking to overcome the immunity from criminal prosecution provided in subsection (1).

The Senate President Joe Negron (R) said, “If the state of Florida is going to accuse a citizen of committing a crime, the state of Florida should have the burden of proof at each and every part of the proceedings.”

This change is being looked at by other states that passed similar laws after Florida, and adopted the “Stand your Ground” moniker. Some states do not have this hearing, but some followed Florida’s lead and now may follow it again.

So, if you ever have to use your self-defense firearm to protect yourself or your loved ones from harm, at least now you will no longer have to prove you were in the right. The State will have to prove you were in the wrong, as it should have been all along.

Chris Wagoner

Chris Wagoner is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army Veteran. He has been in law enforcement the last 35+ years. He specializes in LE Firearms Instruction, and is in charge of a large Police Academy in North Florida. In his spare time Chris is a freelance writer and posts his articles on "Down Range with Chris Wagoner".

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