Politics
7:22 am
Wed August 28, 2013

Broward Senator Files Legislation To Stop George Zimmerman Wannabes

Sen. Chris Smith says the Stand Your Ground law is being misused. He's filed legislation to limit when suspects can use the law as a defense.
Sen. Chris Smith says the Stand Your Ground law is being misused. He's filed legislation to limit when suspects can use the law as a defense.
Credit flsenate.gov

The Stand Your Ground law will get hearings when the Florida Legislature convenes for regular business next month.

But no significant changes in the law are expected.

Lawmakers voted against holding a special session on Stand Your Ground after protesters staged a month-long sit-in at the Capitol.

So Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Ft. Lauderdale, is taking a different approach. He’s filed legislation in response to the acquittal of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin.

“We shouldn't as a society and as Floridians encourage people to begin an altercation and then rely on Stand Your Ground to walk free,” Smith said, “and that's why we clearly define the aggressor and how to deal with the aggressor.”

Smith has seen polls that show “overwhelming support in Florida for the substance of Stand Your Ground – the notion that a person does not have to retreat,” Smith said. “They can actually stand and defend themselves. But I looked at how the (law) has been misused through the years and tried to address some of those things.” 

The bill specifically addresses what happened the night Trayvon Martin was killed. 

George Zimmerman wasn't arrested right away because he claimed self-defense. His arrest came six weeks later, after a special prosecutor appointed by the governor found enough evidence to file charges.

George Zimmerman wasn't arrested right away because he claimed self-defense. His arrest came six weeks later, after a special prosecutor appointed by the governor found enough evidence to file charges.

“What we're requiring is FDLE and state attorneys to track these cases, so maybe another year from now we can look and say okay, what's being misused this way?” Smith said. “It puts law enforcement in a position to give some kind of guidance to these neighborhood watch groups so they'll have more guidance on how they should react to situations.”

Bills have been filed to overturn Stand Your Ground in Florida. It’s doubtful they will be successful, but Smith thinks his bill has a shot because it “keeps the essence of Stand Your Ground.”

In addition to tracking Stand Your Ground cases and requiring police agencies to craft guidelines for crime watch programs, Smith's bill would prevent neighborhood watch participants from confronting anyone suspicious.

It would also prevent anyone who leaves a place of safety - and starts a confrontation - from using Stand Your Ground as a defense.