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Bill would modify ‘stand your ground’ law

Senior Editor Top Stories
MICHELE RAYNER-GOOLSBY

Rep. Michele Rayner

A bill that would amend Florida’s Stand Your Ground doctrine has been filed in the Florida House.

Rep. Michele Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, has introduced HB 73 which reimposes the duty to retreat if possible before a person uses deadly force to defend themselves. She said it was both an attempt to reverse and modify the Stand Your Ground provisions in F.S. Chap. 776.

“First, I think the statute as it’s written is confusing,” Rayner said. “When we look at Stand Your Ground cases not only in Florida but around the country, there’s been disparate impacts on Black and Brown people and poor people and how it’s applied.”

The previous law which imposed the duty to retreat if possible was based on common law as is another provision in Chap. 766 — unchanged by Rayner’s bill — that allows a person to use force to defend his or her home from a break-in or other violent act.

Rayner said she’s been particularly interested in the bill since she represented the parents of Markeis McGlockton, who was shot and killed in 2018, in a dispute over a parking space. The Pinellas County sheriff initially declined to charge the shooter, Michael Drejka, citing the Stand Your Ground Law.

Three weeks after the incident, which received national attention, the Sixth Circuit State Attorney’s Office indicted Drejka and in 2019, a jury convicted him of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Rayner said she has lined up a Senate sponsor but acknowledged in the Republican-dominated Legislature the bill has an uphill battle.

“We have a Republican-held Legislature. I am a Democrat and I’m doing my due diligence to have a conversation,” said Rayner, adding she’s hopeful the bill will get a committee hearing.

The bill, called “The Self-Defense Restoration Act,” would amend F.S. §776.012 and §776.031 on when Floridians are entitled to use deadly or physical force. Specifically, it deletes provisions saying a person does not have a duty to retreat if possible before using deadly or physical force.

In §776.012, the bill removes language in the current law that when facing a threat of “imminent death or great bodily harm,” a person does not have a duty to retreat and may “stand his or her ground” if the person “is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.”  The proposed bill would add language that deadly force could not be used “if the person knows that he or she can avoid the necessity of using deadly force with complete safety by retreating.”

In §776.031, the bill removes language enabling the use of less than deadly force to defend personal property other than a dwelling. It also imposes a duty to retreat if that can be done safely before using deadly force to prevent the “imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

The bill also repeals F.S. §776.032, which grants immunity from criminal prosecution or civil action for those who justifiably use force under the two sections as well as F.S. §776.013, which allows the use of force in defending a dwelling.

The bill, which has been assigned to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee, would become effective upon passage and signing by the governor.

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