Stand Your Ground Laws Can Only Protect So Much

AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File

Stand Your Ground laws are controversial for no good reason. The media has portrayed them as licenses to kill and one person even tried to argue that they permitted a return of dueling. That was…special.

The truth is that most people who freak about them don’t really understand how these laws work. They only know what someone with an agenda pushed.

On the flip side, many on this side of the debate look at them as simply protecting lawful gun owners who act in self-defense by removing the duty to retreat from the discussion. That’s what they’re meant to do.

Unfortunately, it seems that even the presence of a Stand Your Ground law might not be enough to keep you out of court.

An Orlando man who was arrested after a shooting that left two brothers dead had his murder case dismissed after a judge agreed he only fired his gun in self-defense.

Then 24-year-old Rafael Villaverde had been charged with second-degree murder for his part in the Aug. 6, 2022 shooting that killed 21-year-old Dylan Jimenez and his brother, 28-year-old Bryan Richardson.

According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Jimenez and Richardson had gotten into an “altercation” with Villaverde that morning at the Heritage Hotel on South Orange Blossom Trail.

After a brief verbal exchange, investigators say Jimenez pulled a gun and shot Villaverde who then returned fire. Both were injured in the initial exchange of gunfire.

Deputies say Richardson ran with Jimenez to a parking lot on the north side of the hotel where he collapsed.

During a “Stand Your Ground” hearing last week, Villaverde’s defense team argued he never fired or even raised his own gun until Jimenez had already shot him.

The state, on the other hand, tried to argue Villaverde could not claim self-defense because he “provoked the use of force against himself” by touching the gun in his pocket before Jimenez arrived on scene.

That’s right. He touched his gun before the other guy was present, which supposedly “provoked” the use of force.

Because I know I get provoked by stuff I never knew about all the time.

Seriously, how did a prosecutor really think that would go?

Luckily, the judge thought it was a stupid argument as well. He argued that even if it were provocative on its own, the fact that Jimenez wasn’t there to witness it kind of negated that claim. Which is true.

Yet we need to also recognize that Villaverde still had to go through the process of being prosecuted for acting in self-defense. In Florida where they have a Stand Your Ground law and have had one for decades at this point.

For many people, Stand Your Ground laws feel like a shield. They’re there to prevent unwarranted prosecution for law-abiding citizens acting in self-defense. They don’t need to worry about prosecution because the law is in place.

But it’s pretty clear that an enterprising prosecutor can manufacture a reason to press charges if they so desire, as this dipstick did.

Is it wrong? Absolutely. The law was clear and the prosecutor’s argument was idiotic at best. Yet lawyers aren’t cheap, which makes the process punishment enough.

What’s worse is that Florida has qualified immunity, which means the prosecutor is shielded from liability for being a total turdnugget in a case like this.

This case worked out in the end, but we should also remember that other cases might be a tad bit more ambiguous and result in a jury trial. If you’re someone who lives in this part of Florida, be careful. Make sure you do everything right if there’s an altercation because you might not be as fortunate.