In part one of this blog, we discussed the history and background of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and what it means. In this section, we will be discussing both the potential charges Mr. Zimmerman, the alleged shooter, may be facing as well as if this law itself even applies…
What are the possible charges that George Zimmerman faces?
As of this writing, no arrest has been made in this case. Police continue to investigate with no hint of what direction they are leaning to. The most obvious charge is murder. In Florida, murder can be of varying degrees, often depending on if the act was premeditated. If the police determined that Mr. Zimmerman acted with negligence in the killing of Mr. Martin, under Florida law, her could be charged with manslaughter. Mr. Zimmerman could possibly face federal charges if the federal government decides to get involved (possibly through a civil rights violation). Finally, it is important to remember that this is all conjuncture, no charges have been filed yet and Mr. Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty.
Does Florida “Stand Your Ground” Law apply?
The short answer is…nobody really knows! This law prevents prosecution for murder or other criminal charges but ONLY if George Zimmerman was not the instigator. Using a hypothetical, suppose George Zimmerman repeatedly followed and harrassed Trayvon Martin or if George attacked Trayvon. Then pretend Trayvon started to fight back or retaliate against George. This law could not be used as a defense by Mr. Zimmerman because in that scenario, HE was the instigator and did not try to retreat from the situation. Contrary to many media depictions, this law is not a “get out of jail” card that you can use just because you started a fight and began to lose!
However, suppose Mr. Zimmerman was following Mr. Martin and Trayvon then began to get aggresive towards George. George then retreats but Trayvon continues to attack. If Mr. Zimmerman has a reasonable fear that he may suffer death or great bodily harm, that law may now apply.
The truth is we may never know what occurred that night. Already, there has been much inacurate media portrayals of both parties. All we can hope for is that justice will be done…