Florida Supreme Court Case Could Radically Change Stand Your Ground Law

Florida Supreme Court Case Could Radically Change Stand Your Ground Law
AdamHill via wikimedia commons

In December 2011, Jared Bretherick and his family were tooling around Orlando when the visitors from Indiana were cut off in a road rage incident. According to reports, a driver named Derek Dunning almost sideswiped the car Bretherick's father was driving. Dunning allegedly slammed his car to a halt, got out, and started screaming at the Brethericks.

By the time police showed up on the scene, Jared Bretherick was pointing a handgun at Dunning. Bretherick was arrested, charged with aggravated assault. Last week, his lawyers were before the Florida Supreme Court, arguing points of law that could radically change the Gunshine State's controversial Stand Your Ground Law.

According to Bretherick's account, Dunning made threatening gestures to the family in the road-rage incident. Bretherick's father showed his holstered handgun to back off the pissed Dunning. When the man didn't go away, Jared Bretherick pulled the gun. Later he claimed he thought Dunning say he had a gun as well, although no firearm was found.

Bretherick has already tried to knock down the aggrevated assault charge by claiming he was protecting himself under Stand Your Ground. A lower court dismissed that claim. Last week, his lawyers asked the state's highest court to reconsider.

"For over seven minutes, the only thing keeping Derek Dunning at bay from continuing his attack on this family was the gun in Jared Bretherick's hands," attorney Eric Friday told the court last week. "For over seven minutes, Derek Dunning sat in his car, in a situation of his own making, trapping a disabled vet from escaping a situation that Dunning had created."

The point of law that the Dunning case is arguing is actually pretty important -- it could be a game changer for the legislation that became such a hot-button issue after George Zimmerman walked for the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Right now, under the law, gun owners have to legal duty to prove self-defense when they brandish a weapon. Bretherick's attorney, however, argued before the Florida Supreme Court that the burden should be switched to prosecutors -- meaning it would be up to the state attorney to prove a gun owner didn't need to act in self defense. As such, the entire way we think about Stand Your Ground would alter.

Last summer, the state legislature tried to similarly tweak Stand Your Ground. The bill was squashed thanks to some legislative maneuvering, but it could rear back up in the next session.

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