Group asks Fla. governor to veto 'warning shot' bill

By Matt Galka, Reporter, Capitol News Service
Published On: Apr 15 2014 04:21:12 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

A bill allowing a person to fire a warning shot at an attacker without penalty is waiting for Gov. Rick Scott's signature, but a group that protects First Amendment rights is asking Scott to veto the measure because you might never know who has fired a shot.

The "warning shot" bill passed both the House and the Senate, but First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen said what's not in the bill is its biggest problem.

"There will be no record of what happened or how it happened or why it happened, and that's a great concern," said Petersen.

The bill allows for all records to be expunged if someone who fires a warning shot is found innocent. Petersen said that could lead to a laundry list of other issues that would go undetected.

"Misdeeds, prosecutorial misconduct, law enforcement misconduct, a bad investigation, an unlawful arrest," Petersen said.

Most of the Senate debate on the warning shot bill focused on the expungement of records.

Sen. Chris Smith tried to amend the bill to keep the data from getting thrown out.

"It's the wrong thing, it's the wrong thing to get rid of these records," said Smith. "I want to be able to track this. I want to have all the evidence out there."

Sen. Charles Dean, a former sheriff, disagreed.

"Clearly if you're innocent, that should automatically expunge your name and you shouldn't have to defend your name for the rest of your life," Dean said.

Smith's amendment failed and the bill passed with the expungement provision. Petersen and the First Amendment Foundation have sent a letter to the governor's office asking for a veto.

If the bill is presented to the governor while lawmakers are still in session, he'll have seven days to sign it. If it's outside of session, he'll have 15 days.

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