Stand Your Ground Changes Have Wide Impact

A recent court decision has put the controversial “stand your ground” law back under the microscope. Passed in Florida in 2005, the law changes traditional self-defense guidelines immensely. “Stand your ground” eliminates the responsibility to retreat from dangerous situations and authorizes individuals to forcefully defend themselves to “prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” Since it’s passing there has been debate over consequences and convictions, and now, more concerns are surfacing.

A 2017 amendment reversing the burden of proof, is the origin of a state-wide disagreement. Originally, the burden of proof, or responsibility to prove one’s claim, was left to the defense. However, the amendment now leaves it up to the prosecution to refute a “stand your ground” claim. One contentious question that arises from this change is whether the change can be applied retroactively to active cases. Not all courts agree, as the Second District Court of Appeals has decided to apply the rule retroactively to various cases in Hillsborough and Pinellas County, while the Third District Court of Appeals, located in Miami, has deemed the amendment unconstitutional and has decided not to apply it retroactively.

These conflicting decisions mean that the final decision on retroactive application rests with the Florida Supreme Court; a process that could take as long as a year. Until the Florida Supreme Court reaches a decision, each district will handle cases as their district court has directed. In the meantime, there is a lot of uncertainty amongst defendants, victims, defense attorneys and prosecutors.

One of the first cases to apply the amended law is the Pinellas County trial of Bobby Ryan. Accused of taking part in a fight in 2016 that turned fatal, Ryan claimed a “stand your ground” defense under the new rules and prevailed. Although the charges against Mr. Ryan were dismissed, the Attorney General’s Office has appealed the decision because they do not believe that the law should be applied retroactively to crimes committed before June 9, 2017. While his case is under appeal, Mr. Ryan has cited great uncertainty for himself and his family as his fate is once again in the hands of the courts.

In Hillsborough County, Tymothy Ray Martin was previously convicted of felony battery against his girlfriend. He unsuccessfully attempted a “stand your ground” defense and was convicted. Martin’s attorneys appealed the conviction on the grounds that the amended law should apply to his case. The Second District Court of Appeals agreed, and Mr. Martin will get a second shot at a “stand-your-ground” defense.

Cases such as Martin’s raise concerns from both victims and prosecutors. Retrying cases that have already been decided carry heavy costs to the prosecution as time and expense must be allocated to retrying cases. Additionally, the necessity of reliving trials and the possibility of reversals can be very painful to victims.

Those in Pasco County are particularly curious about the long-standing case of retired Tampa police captain, Curtis Reeves. Reeves has been awaiting trial since he shot and killed Chad Oulson in a movie theatre in 2014, claiming a “stand your ground” defense. The judge did rule against him, rejecting his “stand your ground” defense. Unsurprisingly, his lawyers appealed the decision. Now, with the amendment in place, prosecutors, defenders and family members alike are unsure of what this means for Reeves or the Oulson family.

The decision of the Second District Court of Appeals impacts everyone involved in the case. For Curtis Reeves, the more time passes, the more time he will live free of any consequences for his actions. Oulson family attorney TJ Grimaldi stated, “An opportunity for a second chance at a stand your ground defense can only be seen as a win for Mr. Reeves and his attorneys.”

For the widow of Chad Oulson, this waiting game only adds to the suffering she experienced by losing her husband. Waiting for these decisions means anxiously anticipating another potential hearing, and more importantly, further delaying justice.

The individuals from the cases highlighted above are not the only ones who will be directly affected by this conflict. The uncertainty the amendment creates can be costly to the state itself and its citizens, and especially painful for both defendants and victims. It also impacts the dockets which will be pushed back for both the state and defense attorneys to focus on cases they had deemed done. The debate over this amendment is causing statewide chaos and is ultimately doing more harm than good. If you have any further questions, comments or concerns please comment below.

Tampa attorney: Stand Your Ground law changes will cost more, endanger public safety

Stand your ground lawFlorida’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows potential victims to defend themselves forcefully if they have reason to fear death or serious injury, has made headlines since it was enacted in 2005. But key changes to the law promise higher prosecution costs and greater danger to the public, according to TJ Grimaldi, Tampa attorney and partner at the law firm of McIntyre Thanasides.

The original law gained notoriety through high-profile cases such as the killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the 2014 shooting of Chad Oulson in a movie theater. Oulson’s killer faced a pretrial hearing earlier this year. Grimaldi represents the victim’s widow, Nicole Oulson.

Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed SB 128 into law on June 9. Under this new version of Stand Your Ground, the burden of proof shifts from the defendant to the prosecution. Supporters expect the shift in burden of proof to protect the rights of defendants, but opponents of the change raise serious concerns. They call SB 128 the “Shoot to Kill” bill, and argue it will place a greater financial burden on the prosecution, and result in an increased case load and more deaths by lethal action. Critics, Grimaldi among them, believe the new law will increase costs for state attorney’s offices, putting additional pressure on prosecution resources.

The negative public health effects of the existing law were already noted in a study published last January by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which concluded that gun-related homicides in Florida increased nearly 32 percent between 2005, when Stand Your Ground became law, and 2014.

“From a public health perspective, we were shocked that in a given area, rates of people dying changed so abruptly and in such a sustained way,” study co-author Douglas Wiebe told ScienceBlogs. “These are people dying who otherwise wouldn’t have died. That is what is most profound about our findings.” Wiebe is an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

The revised law will result in more plea deals offered, charges dropped, or defendants escaping prosecution due to prosecutorial immunity, Grimaldi said. “Dangerous defendants will have a much better chance at walking free. The change will cost the State Attorney’s Office, and in the end, the citizens much more to prosecute crimes. The State Attorney’s Office has a budget. To force it to carry the burden whenever this defense is raised will require a business decision, because the office cannot handle the increased costs.”

Grimaldi is intimately involved in Stand Your Ground issues. He currently represents Nicole Oulson, widow of the man who was shot and killed in a suburban Tampa movie theater by Curtis Reeves in 2014. Reeves’s defense sought and was denied Stand Your Ground in a pretrial hearing last March. But now the law has changed.

Since the burden will now be on the prosecution, a defendant will have nothing to lose by raising a Stand Your Ground defense. The deck, Grimaldi said, will be more heavily stacked in favor of the defendant.

TJ Grimaldi is an attorney and partner at the law firm of McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. He has been a featured expert on TV and in major publications, including Inside Edition, Crime Stories with Nancy Grace, Good Morning America, Nightline, The View, The New York Times, The Tampa Bay Times, and DailyMail.com.

To speak with Mr. Grimaldi regarding the recent changes in Stand Your Ground, contact him directly at tj@mcintyrefirm.com.

How “Stand Your Ground” Self-Defense Law Has Affected Florida

Florida Law- Stand Your Ground

In 2005, a self-defense law called “stand your ground” was passed in the state of Florida that enabled people who felt endangered by another person to use excessive or deadly force in an effort for self-defense. Rather than being charged with a severe criminal offense, those who claim their action was within the “stand your ground” law can become immune from charges and State prosecution.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, since the “stand your ground” legislation passed in 2005, there has been a reported 32 percent increase in homicides in Florida. The published report spiked conversation about the law, encouraging citizens to learn what this law entails.

The Florida Statutes codify the semantics of the “stand your ground law,” making it clear that the self-defense law can be enacted only if “a person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony,” (Florida Statutes, Section 776.012).

Florida is the so-called birthplace of the “stand your ground” law. In the years between 2000 and 2010, over 20 states put the “stand your ground” self-defense law into effect, with some states expanding their laws to boost protections in other areas.

“Stand your ground” cases should always be handled with investigation and immense care. The attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. are thoroughly trained and trustworthy in handling disputes of this complexity.

TJ Grimaldi is a partner at McIntyre Law firm and the attorney of Ms. Nicole Oulson, the widow of Chad Oulson who was shot and killed in a Wesley Chapel movie theatre by Curtis Reeves in 2014. Reeves’ defense case is based on Stand your ground, and has a hearing set for February 2017, more than three years after the incident.

Our lawyers are well versed in knowledge of assistance for any personal injury or criminal case, including one that may involve “stand your ground.”

If you’ve been involved in any situation where deadly or attempted deadly action was applied in self-defense and need legal consultation, call our lawyers at the McIntyre Law Firm today: (844)511-4800.