George Zimmerman, the man who stands accused of Second Degree Murder for the death of teenager Trayvon Martin will not be going forward on a Motion for Immunity previously scheduled for April 2013. A Motion for Immunity, otherwise known to the world outside the legal community as a “Stand Your Ground” motion is a pretrial motion asserting that an individual is immune from prosecution for an allegation of violence levied against an individual. In essence a Stand Your Ground motion asserts that an individual had a right to use such force so as to protect themselves against the unlawful force of another. On February 5th of this year George Zimmerman’s criminal attorney requested that Zimmerman’s trial be continued beyond the June date citing the need for more time and money to lay the groundwork for the trial. This request was denied, ultimately to be the catalyst for Zimmerman’s lawyer’s decision to forego the Motion for Immunity and focus on the trial.
Florida Statute 776.012 justifies the use of deadly force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force and he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. Florida Statute 776.012 is cited in Florida Statute 776.032 where it says that a person who uses force as permitted in 776.012 is justified in doing so and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force unless the person against whom the force is used is law enforcement acting in the performance of their duties and the officer identifies themselves.
From a procedural standpoint, a defendant’s Tampa criminal lawyer must file a pretrial motion asserting immunity from prosecution. Peterson v. State, 983 So.2d 27 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008). The Court will then hold a hearing to determine factual disputes raised. Id. The burden at the pretrial hearing will fall squarely on the defendant asserting immunity and he must show by a preponderance of the evidence that his force was justified under Florida Statute 776.012 and 776.032. Id. Should the defendant fall short in his bid for immunity his Tampa criminal attorney can move for a Writ of Prohibition requesting an appellate court to command a lower court to change their ruling. Should this fail, Tampa criminal attorneys can still assert the “stand your ground” defense at trial. Peterson, 983 So.2d at 29. An often overlooked issue that must be covered is the notion of what is reasonable. Thanks to an excellent presentation on this topic by our local Barney Masterson Inn of Court, the issues of battered woman’s syndrome or post traumatic stress disorder may bear on what is considered reasonable and they should be considered by a trial court judge.
In speculating from the evidence known to the general public, our Tampa criminal lawyers are not of the opinion that foregoing the Motion for Immunity is hugely detrimental to the defense of the murder allegation. Immunity as a defense can still be asserted at the trial and considering the evidence available it is unlikely a Judge would find that the defendant could meet the standard at pretrial hearing. Time will tell for George Zimmerman and his legal team. Until then, this case will continue to shed light on Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Jason Mayberry is a Federal and State criminal attorney with offices in Tampa and Clearwater, Florida. We’re available for a free consultation at 813-444-7435.