Friday, March 23, 2012

Florida Stand your Ground Law

The case is fairly simple.

A black kid went out to buys some Skittles.  A Neighborhood Watch captain, saw him and thought he was suspicious.  The NW captain called the police, the police said they would come.  The NW captain decided to approach the kid, the police told him not to (Neighborhood Watch people are specifically told to obey the police).   There was a struggle and the NW captain shot and killed (with a single shot) the kid.

The kid was unarmed and his blood tests turned up negative for drugs.  The police, in their stupidity, forgot to test the NW captain.

Now comes the law problem.  In 2005, the National Rifle Association, over the objection of local police, pushed through a "Stand your Ground Law."

The law says that you don't have to retreat if you feel threatened.   The problem is people are pretty generous about feeling threatened.

To quote South Park "Do you see that deer?  IT'S COMING RIGHT AT ME.  BLAM".

There are other cases.  In 2010, a bossy man by the name of Trevor Dooley got into a confrontation with David James (in front of David James's daughter) and shot Mr. James dead.

The authors of the law says that the NW captain should be charged, that the Stand your Ground Law does not make his actions legal (Source).   Both former Sen. Durell Peaden and current state Rep. Dennis Baxley, agree on that point.

Peaden, (R), said that the law lets you meat force with force, it does not let you confront another person.  As the NW captain approached the black kid, it was the NW captain doing the approaching, and the law does not protect him.

“The guy lost his defense right then,” said Peaden. “When he said ‘I’m following him,’ he lost his defense.”

You know what, I agree with him.  The cops and prosecutors are mis-applying the law that the NRA wrote and convinced Peaden and Baxley to push.

But this indicates a problems with many laws.  It is not enough to finally craft a law with appropriate exceptions.   More specifically, that is the problem when lobbyists craft a law to protect their interests.  They tend to ignore the opposing side and don't make things clear.   The law must also be clearly understood by the police and the prosecutors.   There are similar "must give" laws that are designed to ensure that people can get gun licenses.  The problem is the judges are mis-reading the law and thinking they must give licenses to clearly and obviously dangerous people.

When a law is being mis-applied right off the bat, that means the idiot that wrote the law made a mistake.  You don't blame the people misapplying the law, you blame the morons that wrote it. 

There is a simple reason for this.  Technology advances.  We end up having to apply freedom of speech rules to new inventions like twitter.   If the cops, lawyers and judges don't understand it well enough the decade you wrote it, how are they supposed to interpret it in 100 years when new technology brings new challenges to the law.

The GOP has to take responsibility for writing crappy, poorly written "propaganda" laws, designed to 'prove' something or support a single constituency, as opposed to being fair to all.

The simplest, best way to re-write the Stand your Ground law should be to make it clear you can NOT initiate contact with the target in any way shape or form.   You can't approach them, you can't question them, you can't do anything to them until they acted first.  That should have been made clear in the original law, but they didn't do a good job.

Why?  Because they were too focused on appeasing the National Rifle Association and didn't care all that much about their constituency, particularly the liberals that voted against them.

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