With the tragic story of the Trayvon Martin killing in Sanford, Florida, and the ever evolving controversies surround it, Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law has come under attack in the media. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz wants Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Repealed, Click here for full story. Although the criticisms of the law are certainly warranted and a public debate on the subject is clearly needed, we wanted to relay the story of a case that we had last year that highlights one of the good aspects of the Stand Your Ground Law.
Our client Julio Abreau-Jimenez was a commercial truck driver. While driving on I-95 in Broward County, he drove up the entrance ramp and entered the highway. As he merged into traffic, another commercial truck failed to yield and a collision nearly occurred. (Or Jimenez cut the other driver off as he entered. Either way, regardless of whose fault it was, it is irrelevant to the ultimate issue). Luckily both drivers were able to maintain control of their vehicles and continue along I-95. The driver of the other truck believed he was cut off by Jimenez and decided to follow behind Jimenez as he later exited off of I-95. As Jimenez exited I-95 he stopped at the exit ramp traffic light. The driver of the other vehicle was following behind him and claimed that that light turned green but Jimenez did not proceed, so he got out of his truck and begin to approach Jimenez’s truck, screaming and yelling at him as he approached. Jimenez saw the other driver coming towards his vehicle and feared for his safety. Jimenez then reached for his handgun (which he was fully licensed to carry, with a concealed weapons permit). He opened his truck door and pointed the gun at the other driver who was fairly close at this point. He did not fire the gun. The other driver saw the gun and ran back to his truck and called the police. Shortly thereafter, the police arrived at Jimenez’s workplace and subsequently arrested him for aggravated assault with a firearm. The Broward County State Attorney’s Office received the case and in their infinite wisdom, decided to formally charge Jimenez with aggravated assault with a firearm, a felony that carries a three year minimum mandatory prison sentence.
Jimenez hired us at the Broward, Miami-Dade, & Palm Beach County Criminal Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC. After fully investigating the case and taking depositions, we eventually moved for the case to be dismissed by filing a Motion for a Pretrial “Stand Your Ground” Evidentiary Hearing, (click here to read the motion) alleging that Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law completely controls in this case and that if Jimenez feared for his safety and believed that the other driver was either going to physically harm him or enter his vehicle, then he had every legal right to pull out his gun. (Special Thanks to Attorney Jacob A. Cohen for providing the framework of the motion). We further argued that the Stand Your Ground Law even allowed him to shoot the other driver, though fortunately this did not occur. The Judge agreed with our position that the Stand Your Ground Law applied in this case and granted the motion, fully dismissing the case.
Although we are sure there are plenty of examples where the Stand Your Ground Law failed to live up to its intended legislative purpose, we believe the Jimenez case is one where the law provided a just and fair outcome. Whether or not Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law actually even applies to the Trayvon Martin case is a possible topic for a future blog post.