tampabay.com

Bill would paint target on backs of intruders

If a new measure passes, people could use deadly force in their homes and cars.

By ALISA ULFERTS
Published February 10, 2005


TALLAHASSEE - More than a decade has passed since Sen. Jim King woke up to find a man pointing a gun at his head.

It's been 15 years since Sen. Evelyn Lynn woke up - twice - to find intruders in her home.

But both remember the events as if they were yesterday, prompting both to vote Wednesday for a bill expanding the rights of Floridians to use deadly force when threatened in their homes and cars.

The bill (SB436) passed the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice unanimously.

It must pass one more committee before heading to the full Senate. An identical bill is working its way through the House.

Under current law, homeowners cannot use deadly force unless they believe an intruder intends to kill them or a loved one, or severely harm them. Although criminal case law tends to favor homeowners, anyone who kills an intruder can be arrested.

Under the bill, anyone who breaks into an occupied house or car would be presumed to have deadly intent. Victims would no longer have to determine the intruder's intent.

"You can't expect a victim to wait and ask, "Excuse me, Mr. Criminal, are you going to rape me and kill me, or are you just going to beat me up and steal my television?' " said Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

The bill has law enforcement support because it does not allow homeowners to shoot law officers who legally break into homes, such as when they believe someone is in harm or evidence is being destroyed.

"I think if you talked to the average Joe or Jane Citizen they would say, "There ought to be a law.' This is your chance to make a law," said David Murrell, lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

The bill does not allow people to shoot intruders outside the home.

"If someone was standing over you and you had a gun under your pillow, you could go ahead and shoot him, no questions asked," said Sen. Durell Peadon, the Crestview Republican who is sponsoring the bill.

Lynn said police told her she should not keep a weapon near her bed.

"They said, "No, you don't want to do that because you will be liable,' " she said.