James L. Rosica in Tallahassee
An open government watchdog is asking Gov. Rick Scott to veto a bill that would change the state’s “stand your ground” law.
The measure (HB 89) decriminalizes “warning shots” as well as the act of simply brandishing a weapon in self-defense.
The First Amendment Foundation on Monday wrote to Scott, asking for his veto, specifically objecting to a section of the bill allowing for secrecy of court records.
Under the bill, those who successfully claim a “stand your ground” defense and are found innocent could also petition a court to expunge their court records.
Current state law allows expungement, or removal from the public view, of a “criminal history record,” not just a record of a conviction.
The expungement provision “not only limits public oversight, but potentially could serve as a tool for obscuring law enforcement and prosecutorial misconduct,” foundation president Barbara A. Petersen wrote.
Democrats had tried to take out that section, explaining that policymakers, news media and others should be able to keep track of who’s found innocent.
“For example, this legislation would allow someone … to hide an arrest record, records relating to the investigation made by the prosecutor, and even the records justifying the dismissal – thus potentially allowing for secret arrests and secret investigations,” Petersen wrote.
Fresh Squeezed is awaiting comment from Scott’s office.
“Stand your ground” allows people who are attacked to meet deadly force with deadly force in self-defense without any requirement that they flee.
UPDATE: Scott spokesman John Tupps reports: “Gov. Scott supports the Second Amendment and Florida’s self-defense laws. He looks forward to reviewing this legislation in its entirety now that it has been approved by both the House and the Senate.”