Criminal Justice

Florida warning-shot bill advances in state senate

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A Florida bill that would make it legal to fire a warning shot at an attacker has advanced in the Florida legislature.

The bill, designed to expand the state’s “stand your ground” law, was approved by Florida’s Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, report the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the Tampa Tribune Fresh Squeezed blog and the Palm Beach Post.

Currently, Floridians may use deadly force, rather than retreating, to protect themselves when threatened with imminent harm or death. But some Floridians who used a gun to scare off an attacker, or to fire a warning shot, have been charged with aggravated assault under the state’s “10-20-Life” law, which imposes a 10-year sentence for using a gun in a crime and a 20-year sentence for firing a gun in a crime.

The bill would allow firing or pointing a gun in self-defense.

The bill was largely a response to the prosecution of Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after firing what she said was a warning shot at her abusive husband. An appeals court overturned Alexander’s conviction in September because jurors were given improper instructions about the burden of proof needed for her self-defense claim, and granted her a retrial.

However, should she be convicted again, Alexander would now face 60 years in prison, according to the Florida Times-Union, because she would have to serve her sentence consecutively rather than concurrently. Her new trial is scheduled to begin on July 28.

Edited at 10:45 a.m. to add more details about Alexander’s new trial.

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