As Florida's proposed changes to its "stand your ground" law make headlines, one provision aims to keep court cases that use the controversial defense out of the public eye.
An amendment was adopted by the Florida House that would limit the public's access to court records in "stand your ground" cases when charges are dropped. Under the proposed legislation, a person accused "may apply for a certificate of eligibility to expunge the associated criminal history" if a judge or prosecutor assesses that the accused appropriately invokes "stand your ground" as a defense.
Supporters, including National Rifle Association board member Marion Hammer, say that the amendment grants privacy to defendants who invoke "stand your ground" in legitimate self-defense. But others are concerned that the amendment, if it passes, will limit journalists, activists and academics looking to learn more about the effects of the controversial law.
Had the provision been in effect two years ago, for example, The Tampa Bay Times would not have been able to conduct its award-winning investigation on how "stand your ground" has been applied unevenly across the state.