Gov. Ron DeSantis Wants to Expand Florida's Stand Your Ground Laws to Cover Criminal Mischief

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has reportedly proposed expanding the state's "Stand Your Ground" law to include an "anti-mob" provision that could allow for armed residents to legally shoot and kill protesters.

DeSantis has offered an "anti-mob legislation draft," proposing to expand the law's list of "forcible felonies" to include looting or "criminal mischief" that could result in the "interruption or impairment" of a business, according to The Miami Herald. Legal experts and advocates have expressed concerns that the proposal is aimed at those taking part in protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

"It dangerously gives armed private citizens power to kill as they subjectively determine what constitutes 'criminal mischief' that interferes with a business," former Miami-Dade prosecutor Aubrey Webb told the Herald. "Someone graffiti-ing 'Black Lives Matter' on a wall? Urinating behind a dumpster? Blocking an entrance?"

"The Boston Tea Party members would have been lawfully shot under Florida's law by the British East India Tea Company," Webb added.

In 2005, Florida became the first of many U.S. states to enact a Stand Your Ground law, which removes the legal responsibility of those facing what they perceive to be a threat to retreat before acting in self-defense by using deadly force.

A 2017 amendment to Florida's law placed the burden of producing "clear and convincing" evidence that a defendant was not acting in self-defense on prosecutors, sometimes forcing what otherwise might have been murder or manslaughter charges to be dropped or not pursued.

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during an event on the campus of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida on August 11, 2020. Don Juan Moore/Getty

Although the state's Stand Your Ground law has long been controversial, the newly proposed expansion to the law has caused additional concerns from those who say it could allow would-be vigilantes to legally justify the killing of Black Lives Matter protesters and make property damage effectively a capital crime.

"It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions," former Miami-Dade County prosecutor Denise Georges, who has prosecuted Stand Your Ground cases, told the paper. "It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime — and that is cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly."

In September, DeSantis proposed new legislation dubbed the Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Protecting Law Enforcement Act, which would create a third-degree felony for those who engage in "violent or disorderly assembly" by causing property damage or injury to others during a protest.

The bill would create a felony for those who "destroy or topple a monument" and make "anyone who organizes or funds a violent or disorderly assembly" liable for RICO racketeering charges. State funds are also withheld for local governments who attempt to "defund the police" under the proposal.

In addition, the bill would remove legal liability for those who run over protesters with their vehicles, provided they are "fleeing" from a "mob" that is blocking traffic. In addition to the "Stand Your Ground" expansion, provisions similar to those in the September bill are included in newly reported anti-mob draft legislation.

Newsweek reached out to the office of DeSantis for comment.