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Miami judge rules Florida's new 'Stand Your Ground' changes unconstitutional

A Miami-Dade judge ruled on Monday that Florida's changes to the "Stand Your Ground" law are unconstitutional on the grounds that the changes should have been made by the Supreme Court, and not the Legislature. (Getty Images)

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled Monday that Florida's changes to its existing "Stand Your Ground" law violate the Florida Constitution.

The Miami Herald reported that Hirsch said that under Florida's constitutional law, the change to the law should have been crafted by Florida's Supreme Court, not the Legislature.

The change to the law, called the "Self-Defense Immunity," was signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) in early June, after the bill passed the Senate in May. The new change requires state prosecutors prove the guilt of someone claiming to have shot someone in self defense. Previously, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that under the 2005 self-defense law, those who used a firearm in self defense must prove their innocence.

The so-called "self-defense immunity" was to flip the script, keeping gun owners who discharged their weapons in self-defense from bearing the burden of proof, with the presumption of innocence already on their side.

Opponents of the law considered the bill too burdensome for prosecutors and are calling this ruling a victory, according to the Herald. However, according to Hirsch, the problem with the changes to the law were "procedural," meaning only the Supreme Court should make them.

“As a matter of constitutional separation of powers, that procedure cannot be legislatively modified,” Hirsch wrote on his decision.

Legislators disagree with Hirsch, however.

“I would be surprised if this decision were upheld at the appellate level,” Sen. Rob Bradley (R), the bill's creator, told the Herald.

According to the Herald, the ruling is not binding, as other judges may choose to uphold the law. However, it does open the door for an appeals process and a possible reviewing of the law by the Florida Supreme Court.

Kylie Mason, a spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, told the Orlando Sentinel that Bondi will appeal the order. John Tupps, spokesman for the governor, said that Scott is currently reviewing the order himself.

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