MEDIA Contact: Greg Newburn, FAMM State Policy Director, (352) 682-2542
TALLAHASSEE – Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) State Policy Director Greg Newburn urged Florida lawmakers to support the “Self-Defense Protection Act,” filed yesterday by Representative Neil Combee (R, Polk City) and Senator Aaron Bean (R, Jacksonville). The bill – HB 135 and SB 228 – would reform Florida’s “10-20-Life” sentencing law to clarify that individuals who use a firearm in self-defense are not subject to mandatory minimum sentences. Specifically, the proposal creates a narrow exception to otherwise applicable mandatory minimum sentences when a court finds a defendant had a good faith belief that using a firearm was justified.
“Last year the legislature added a long overdue self-defense exception to mandatory sentencing for aggravated assault cases,” said Mr. Newburn. “This bill extends the same logic to other cases where harsh mandatory sentences would otherwise apply.”
The change would allow judges to consider relevant circumstances in sentencing that are now unavailable, resulting in injustices in specific cases, as well as a chilling of self-defense rights generally. The case of Michael Giles, an Air Force serviceman who was convicted in 2011 of aggravated battery, is a perfect example. Giles’ charge stemmed from a 2010 incident in which Giles shot a man in what he claimed was self-defense. Though Giles had no prior criminal record, the law imposed a mandatory 25-year sentence. The sentencing judge in Giles’ case said the 25-year sentence was “overly harsh,” but noted that because of 10-20-Life, he had “no legal authority to impose less than that.”
“For years, people on both sides of the aisle have recognized the inherent unfairness of treating a law-abiding citizen who uses a firearm in a potentially life or death situation like common criminals,” Newburn said. “The Self-Defense Protection Act will help restore balance to our sentencing laws.”
“Governor Scott’s Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection found that the current law creates negative unintended consequences. This bill fixes them. Representative Combee and Senator Bean should be applauded for their leadership on this important issue.”
For more information on the bill, please contact FAMM State Policy Director Greg Newburn, firstname.lastname@example.org.