Manslaughter Conviction Upheld in Florida After Court Refuses to Extend “Stand Your Ground” Law Retroactively

Legal News GavelLaws change all the time. When the legislature is in session and passing new laws, these laws will usually have a date that they go into effect. However, sometimes a law can also apply retroactively. That means that even if the conduct occurred before the law was passed, the new law will still apply to it. One of the jobs of the court is to look at the rules around different kinds of laws and decide whether they should apply prospectively – meaning, only apply to conduct in the future from the date it was passed – or retroactively. If you have been charged with a crime, a skilled St. Petersburg defense attorney may be able to help you find new laws that could apply to your case.

Changes in the Stand Your Ground Law

A notable case revolves around the changes made to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. This law has been in effect since 2005. The “Stand Your Ground” law makes it so that individuals no longer have a duty to retreat before using force in self-defense. In the past, before resorting to self-defense, an individual had a duty to leave the premises if they could do so safely. It also protects those who use force in self-defense from legal charges. Initially, the burden was on the person who used force to prove by the preponderance of the evidence that the use of force was necessary to prevent great bodily harm or imminent death. However, a new law signed by the governor of Florida on June 9, 2017 changed the burden of persuasion in “Stand Your Ground” cases. The defendant only needs to make a prima facie showing of self-defense. Then, the new law puts the burden on the State to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the self-defense was not justified.

Procedural vs. Substantive

The main issue in this case is whether the changes to the law apply retroactively or prospectively. The events at issue occurred in 2012. The defendant had a party at his house. His boss was there and had been drinking. He got agitated and the defendant claimed that his boss physically came at him so he pulled out his gun and shot him. The boss died and the defendant was initially charged with second-degree murder. However, at his initial trial the jury found him guilty of manslaughter. He appealed his conviction and argued that the change in the law should be applied retroactively.

The general rule is that procedural legal changes should be applied retroactively and substantive legal changes should only be applied prospectively. So this case turns on whether the changes to the law were procedural or substantive. The Fourth District Court of Appeal in Florida relied on case law from the Supreme Court to determine that the new law should be applied only prospectively. Thus, the defendant’s conviction for manslaughter was upheld.

Contact An Experienced St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a murder or another violent crime, you should contact an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even if you believe that you were within your rights, you still may need a defense attorney to help you show the court that your actions were within the scope of the law. Our criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm can help defend yourself or a loved one against potential or actual criminal charges. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our skilled attorneys about your case.

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