MIAMI
12/20/2012 09:43 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2012

Sen. Chris Smith Proposes Major Changes To Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law

A South Florida state senator is proposing considerable changes to the state's controversial "Stand Your Ground" statute.

With Senate Bill 136, Florida Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) pushes to prohibit instigators of an altercation from claiming "Stand Your Ground," for a statewide registry of all individuals involved in such cases, and for modifications that would allow police leeway to arrest or detain suspects, among other changes.

“The tragic shooting in Sanford, Florida, earlier this year, was a call to action,” remarked Senator Smith in a release, referring to the death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. “It underscored the ease with which an aggressor can dodge prosecution simply by claiming fear of bodily harm."

Major changes to the law in the bill proposal submitted Tuesday morning included:

  • "Requiring, rather than authorizing, a law enforcement agency to investigate the use of force under certain circumstances"
  • "Deleting the provision that prohibits a law enforcement agency from arresting a person for using force under certain circumstances"
  • "Deleting the provisions that make justifiable use of force available to an aggressor who initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself"
  • "Requiring each law enforcement agency within the state to monthly report to the department all incidents and cases in which a claim regarding the justifiable use of force is raised."

“This legislation ends the confusion, the misapplication, and the ability of an individual to kill someone and simply walk away,” Smith said.

His proposal comes just weeks after the state's Rick Scott-appointed Stand Your Ground task force released a report recommending the law remain largely intact.

Sen. Smith formed his own task force in the wake of the shooting, which proposed similar revisions to his bill earlier in the year.

But according to the Florida Current, Smith's bill likely faces an uphill battle:

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who sponsored the stand your ground law when it passed in 2005, did not back any substantial changes to the law as a member of Scott’s task force. He chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which means any adjustment to the stand your ground law will likely go through his panel. Senate President Don Gaetz has declared that any Senate bill must have a House companion bill moving in that chamber to receive hearings.

CLARIFICATION: Language previously used in this story suggested no probable cause was necessary for an arrest; Smith's bill instead removes the language that requires police to determine an illegal use of force prior to detaining a person involved in a "Stand Your Ground" case, and also removes any automatic immunity granted those using force in such cases.

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