Florida’s ‘Godfather of Stand Your Ground’ Wants to Strengthen Self-Defense Law

Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley

U.S. Law Shield saw that the representative often referred to as the “Godfather of Stand Your Ground” in Florida —Rep. Dennis Baxley—has introduced a new bill to make the legal footing for self-defense shooters in the state even firmer. Baxley authored the original “Stand Your Ground” bill in 2005, and it’s worth noting that its core idea has spread to many other states since.

Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley
Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley. Photo courtesy of Florida House of Representatives.

Baxley’s new proposal, the recently introduced HB 169, would put the burden of proof on the prosecution once a prima facie claim of self-defense immunity is raised by the person who fights back against an attack or the threat of an attack.

Kirk Evans, U.S. Law Shield and Texas Law Shield’s president, explained that a person claiming self-defense usually must go before a judge to prove the claim is justified. Under Baxley’s bill and the companion piece of legislation introduced in the Florida Senate by Sen. Rob Bradley (R), the self-defense immunity argument or the “use or threatened use of defensive force” would be bolstered.

Evans said, “If prosecutors fail to prove the defendant did not act in self-defense, a judge could stop the case at the pre-trial hearing stage. Moreover, if dismissed at this stage, defendants may be due up to $200,000 from the state attorney to cover a defendant’s attorney fees, court costs, and other expenses.” The companion bills would reverse a July Florida Supreme Court decision (Bretherick v. State of Florida) that said the burden at a pretrial hearing is on defendants to show by a preponderance of the evidence that they qualify for the defense.

Evans said the state’s prosecutors and state attorneys oppose the bills, claiming every defendant would now claim self-defense and would also cause the state to prove its case twice. And having to award fees to defendants would seriously burden the budgets of prosecutors and may result in cutbacks and fewer prosecutions, they argue.

Both Rep. Baxley and Sen. Bradley say the presumption of innocence is a basic tenet of the judicial system, and that they simply wanted to clarify and strengthen that for anyone who claims self-defense.

What do you think? Good idea or not? Let us know.

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Comments (11)

  1. This is a much needed tool to protect the legally armed citizen who defends their life and property against the animals we all know are out there.

    In many jurisdictions in Florida, Texas and other States with strong self defense laws that explicitly allow a citizen to defend themselves with a weapon, district attorneys who do not believe that all of us have the natural right to self defense can, and do, bring prosecutions against the best of us to hurt us financially, and, if possible get a grand jury and a jury of our peers to see the “facts” of a case differently than is the truth.

    These rogue DA’s are not only intending to crush opposition in self defense cases, but in many cases those DA’s with hold evidence and try every trick in the book to win a case by other than fair means.

    This law should not only be passed as written, but, in my opinion, a much broader law that not only punishes financially the State or local jurisdiction in the case of malfeasance, but also, if a DA is found to have attempted to convict an innocent person then that DA should be automatically in PERSONAL jeopardy for financial, and, possibly, criminal penalties.

    The vast power of the State should not be misused. If a State employee doesn’t like a law their only recourse should be to resign their position or use their own rights in our society to try to get a law over turned.

  2. Lets look at the Martin Zimmerman case a moment. Anyone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe a Grand Jury decided this was a , lets say a justifiable case of self defense, and would not warrant going to court over. My understanding is that the local DA decided to bring these charges anyway.
    This change to stand your ground, makes the peoples justice system ( DA Office) libel for the defendants legal fees if they loose. So, if they have a weak case, and have to hide facts or skew them to win, and they loose, they should have thought twice before bringing a weak case against someone that was in fear of great bodily injury or death and defended him or her self…

    1. Both the grand jury as well as the local DA determined that it was a justifiable homicide but the state was pressured to bring in an outside prosecutor to take the case to trial. Had the new law be in place then he wouldn’t have had to prove innocence the state would have had to determine that it was atleast not self defense and therefore prosecutable and with that the legal expenses up to $200K would be absorbed, Since his case cost FAR more then that he still would have needed more funds

  3. Its an interesting idea. I can certainly see the prosecutors gripe about their budget. On the other hand, what about the defendant’s budget? I can’t afford 200 g’s.

    While the prosecutors don’t like the idea of having to prove their case to move it forward into court, a claim of self defense is in essence a guilty plea with special circumstances that made it reasonable to shoot someone. What would be at question, then, would be the special circumstances. If the court disagreed with them, that would leave the guilty plea. Kind of a slam dunk deal.

    Remember, pleading self defense leaves you with agreeing that you killed someone. If the court disagrees with your reasoning, pretty well all that’s left is the sentencing.

  4. Every gun owner in America needs to thank this guy for what he has done for our cause. No individual in the entire US in the last 100 years has done for gun owners as Rep Baxley has done.
    He started Stand Your Ground as well as Will Issue rather then shall legislation for licenses.
    Dr D

  5. It’s too bad the justice system in this country has become so foul that presumed innocence has to be spelled out like this. Good thing for this bill to pass, and for other states implementing SYG laws to pick up on this and include it in their bill.

  6. Good idea or Bad idea? Hummm….All “good” ideas can be abused. And that means from both sides of the Argument. If it helps to save the responsible citizen from being PERSECUTED from using their weapon to justified self defense, I am all for it. Now if Californika and Chitcago will adopt this, more folks will be saved from the savages that roam the cities, preying on good folks. That’s my take on it.

  7. I understand both sides of this argument, but hope this bill passes. An innocent person should not suffer a major financial loss to defend themselves. “Innocent until proven guilty” is how it should be. If the evidence is there to show guilt prosecutors will move forward, but if not they will ether not file charges, or wait to prosecute until they have substantial evidence. The state prosecutors should not waste taxpayers monies on trials, until their investigation has produced enough evidence to file formal charges. The burden of proof should be on the prosecution, in my opinion

  8. Innocent Until PROVEN guilty. One of the basics of our rule of law….These prosecutors can still bring their cases, BUT, THEY have the burden of proof, not the accused. IF, you accuse someone, YOU should have to prove it, not the accused prove they are innocent….just makes sense…

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