TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A new study published in the Journal for the American Medical Association is linking an increase in homicide rates to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The study found that since the law was implemented in 2005, there has been a 24.4 percent increase in homicides.
“The legislature passed it because they felt that people were getting sued and charged with crimes merely because they were acting in self-defense outside of their home and therefore they felt there should be a protection for those good citizens. Unfortunately, defendants get charged, people take advantage of things and now we have some would consider a confused mess,” said criminal defense attorney Joe Episcopo.
The law allows “if you fear death or great bodily harm, you can use deadly means to protect yourself,” said Episcopo. “If a person has a license to carry a firearm and they get in a situation outside of their home naturally they may use their gun because they know now that they have an opportunity to not be prosecuted and to be immune from lawsuits.”
It was 2012 when Trayvon Martin was killed that the law became known nationwide. Although, George Zimmerman, who killed martin never used the defense, the case sparked a study into the law.
There have been many high profile cases where the defense has used Stand Your Ground, including the case of Curtis Reeves. Reeves is accused of shooting Chad Oulsen inside a Wesley Chapel movie theater in 2014, after a dispute over texting in the theater. Reeves is using the stand your ground defense and will face a judge in February of 2017. Reeves is a retired Tampa Police officer.
However, some have found fault with the study. The National Review writing “The paper’s conflation of murder and homicide and its basic ignorance of the legal principles in question are only the beginning of its authors’ errors,” said author Andrew Branca.
“This will go on and on and the law has not changed and I don’t anticipate it to be changed,” said Episcopo.