Self-Defense Stands to Be Super-Sized in Florida

“The Legislature has never intended that a person who acts in defense of self, others, or property be denied immunity and subjected to trial when that person would be entitled to acquittal at trial,” according to the HB169 text.

Andrew Branca, who like Baxley is a lifelong member of the NRA, said this is anything but a mere tweak or adjustment to Florida’s self-defense law. Branca wrote on his blog that it would be a “game changer” or “to quote Trump (satirically speaking), this change is not a 'tweak' to existing law: it’s a change that’s YUUUUUUGE.”

“In effect, should HB 169 become law it will be far less likely that the State will be able to bring a legitimate case of self-defense to trial.  It will also, however, mean that there will be an enormous increase in the number of marginal self-defense cases that will now qualify for self-defense immunity and therefore will not be able to be brought to trial under the new law, although they would have been brought to trial under the old law,” Branca wrote on his blog.

“Unquestionably, passage of HB 169 would mean that some unknown number of bad actors whose self-defense cases should be defeated will manage to avoid criminal prosecution,” Branca added. “Whether this is a worthy balance in exchange for greater protection for lawful self-defenders is a policy decision for the Florida legislature.”

The introduction of HB 169 and SB 344 is not the first time Baxley and those who share his views have tried to shift the burden of proof in self-defense trials. The Florida Legislature passed a law to do that in 2014, but it was rejected by the state’s Supreme Court.

The court, in the case of an Indiana tourist accused of pointing a gun at a man during a 2011 argument over driving skills on a road in Kissimmee, ruled shifting the burden to prosecutors at the pre-trial hearing stage of a trial would force prosecutors to prove their case twice -- once at pre-trial and again at the trial.

The legislation offered by Rep. Baxley and Sen. Bradley is expected to be moved to the full House and Senate for debate in the 2016 session of the Florida Legislature.