Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) has filed a new bill that would restrict neighborhood crime watch members, among other revisions to Florida's controversial 'Stand Your Ground' law, in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal.
Zimmerman claimed to be acting as a neighborhood watch volunteer in his Sanford, Fla. community when he reportedly pursued and fatally shot unarmed Miami teen Trayvon Martin.
The state's 'Stand Your Ground' law prevented police from arresting Zimmerman for nearly two months, and jury instructions at his trial also included language from 'Stand Your Ground.'
Smith's self-defense bill, filed Monday, requires local sheriffs to issue "reasonable" guidelines to neighborhood crime watch programs, specifying that participants are prohibited from pursuing and confronting suspects.
The bill also specifies that immunity is not available to aggressors; outlines police's duty to investigate use of force cases when a person claims self-defense; clarifies that justifiable use of deadly force is allowed only when a threat is imminent, and when a person cannot safely avoid the danger before resorting to the use of deadly force; and requires the state to track cases in which self-defense is claimed.
“The common sense changes to Stand Your Ground in this bill include some a Republican senator recommended," Smith said in a release. “Stand Your Ground was supposed to be about improving public safety. But unless these changes are adopted, no one is truly safe and everyone is fair game.”
Smith has been one of the most active and vocal critics of Florida's controversial law. He filed a similar bill amending its language last year, although it died in a committee hearing.
The senator also spearheaded an independent review of 'Stand Your Ground' after the task force appointed by Gov. Rick Scott proved to be far from impartial.
A number of new bills for the 2013-2014 session already take aim at the state's self-defense laws.
Rep. Alan Williams, (D-Tallahassee) filed a bill repealing 'Stand Your Ground' in the Florida House last week, and Geraldine F. "Geri" Thompson (D-Orlando) filed the senate version.
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