Warning Shot Bill Passes Senate Floor

By: CBS Miami News Copy; Associated Press News Email
By: CBS Miami News Copy; Associated Press News Email
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News Release: Associated Press News
Updated: April 3, 2014, 10pm

By KAREEM COPELAND

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Senate has approved the so-called `warning shot' bill, which now heads to Gov. Rick Scott to be signed into law.

The bill passed 32-7 on Thursday.

Sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers, a Republican from Pensacola, the bill has garnered attention due to the Marissa Alexander case in Jacksonville. Alexander is out on bail and awaiting a new trial after originally being sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun near her estranged husband during an altercation.

The new bill addresses the "10-20-Life" sentencing law in self-defense cases. Passed in 1999, the "10-20-Life" law requires lengthy sentences for specific felony firearm convictions. Supporters say it wasn't intended to be used in self-defense cases.

Opponents of the proposed changes worry they will encourage more people to fire shots.


News Release: Associated Press News
Updated: March 19, 2014, 8pm

By KAREEM COPELAND

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida House is giving tentative approval to a bill that would let people fire warning shots and avoid prison time.

The legislation was partially inspired by the case of Marissa Alexander. The Jacksonville woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a shot at her estranged husband. An appeals court has ordered her to have a new trial.

The House could approve the bill (HB 89) this week.

Legislators on Wednesday made some substantial changes to the bill.

One of them would give a person who successfully uses a "stand your ground" defense to petition to have records related to the arrest expunged.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said a person who has their arrest dropped doesn't deserve to "have their life ruined."


News Release: Associated Press News
Updated: March 12, 2014, 9:30pm

By KAREEM COPELAND

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The `warning shot' bill has been approved by its final Senate committee and will be heard on the Senate floor.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Pensacola, has garnered attention due to the Marissa Alexander case in Jacksonville. Alexander is currently imprisoned after being sentenced to 20 years for firing a gun near her estranged husband during an altercation.

The new bill addresses "10-20-life" in self-defense cases. Passed in 1999, the 10-20-life law requires lengthy sentences for specific felony firearm convictions. NRA lobbyist Marion Hammers said 10-20-life was not intended to be used in self-defense cases.

Alexander awaits a new trial after she won her appeal. The sentencing judge felt forced to abide by 10-20-life.

Opponents of the proposed changes worry they will encourage more people to fire shots.


Updated By: Mike Vasilinda
January 8, 2014, 5:30pm

Prosecutors squared off today against the NRA and gun toting lawmakers who want to allow people to fire warning shots without being charged with a crime. Prosecutors say the legislation will do little when it comes to deciding who to prosecute.

Marissa Alexander is the poster child of what some are saying is wrong with the State's 10-20-Life law. She was sentenced to twenty years for firing a gun in the direction of her estranged husband and children.

"Something is wrong and something needs to be fixed and we think this bill does that," says Eric Friday, Florida Carry.

Her case was front and center at a legislative hearing over whether to allow people who fear for their safety to fire warning shots or display their gun, without being charged with a crime.

"Threatening to use deadly force to stop a violent attack is not aggregated assault, it is self defense," says Marion Hammer, Unified Sportsmen of Florida. "Self defense is not a crime."

Gainesville State’s Attorney finally had enough.

"Please don't characterize all of Florida's 2000 prosecutors as being some sort of renegade," says Bill Cervone, Prosecutor, 8th Judicial Circuit. "There is another side or nobody would have been arrested, nobody would have been before a court anyhow."

But the NRA says innocent people are going to jail and that the current law is sending a message that it's better to shoot to kill than to fire a warning shot.

"I mean the message is, if you're attack go ahead and shoot somebody, and that's the wrong message," says Hammer.

Prosecutors were blunt, telling lawmakers if they don't want people to get mandatory sentences for brandishing a gun then they need to take aggravated assault out of the 10-20-life statute.

The bill faces at least two more hearing in the Senate before a final vote.


CBS Miami News Copy

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — There’s a push by some Florida legislators to make it clear that people can show a gun, or fire a warning shot, without getting a long prison sentence.

The bill, being pushed by some lawmakers, was partially inspired by the case of Marissa Alexander, who was given a 20 year prison sentence after firing a gun near her estranged husband during an argument. Alexander’s conviction was thrown out by an appeals court and she is scheduled to have a new trial this year.

A Senate committee on Wednesday voted in favor of the bill (SB 488) while a similar version has already moved (HB 89) through a House committee.

The bill would grant the same protections already in place under Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law to people who only threaten to use force.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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