Trayvon Martin

04.01.12

‘Stand Your Ground’ and More Crazy Florida Laws

Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, which allows citizens broad power to use deadly force, is under attack in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. From laws that keep certain voters away from the polls to others that forbid sex acts between married couples, read about the craziest statues on the state’s books.

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has received national attention in the wake of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. The law removes the traditional common law duty to retreat when threatened in public and allows someone threatened to respond immediately with lethal force if it is believed “necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.”

It is still unclear precisely what happened immediately prior to the moment when Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmermann, a member of the local neighborhood watch.  What is clear that the Stand Your Ground law has served as a successful obstacle to prosecutors bringing any charges against Zimmermann. But looking at Florida’s statute books, Stand Your Ground, which the state passed in 2005, isn’t the only law that it might be worthwhile for the state legislature to re-examine.

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

In an attempt to save money, the Florida legislature passed a bill last year that required all welfare recipients to be drug tested. The law required welfare recipients to pay in advance for their drug test with a refund promised if they proved to be drug free. Those who fail are ineligible to receive government aid for a year. However, the law has since been blocked as unconstitutional in federal court. But not only that, because of the expense and inconvenience, it ended up costing more money that it saved as only a few of those on government assistance have tested positive for drug use.

Living in Sin In The Sunshine State

Many young couples live together without being married. In most places, that’s normal. In Florida, that’s illegal. Section 2 of Chapter 798 of Title XLVI of the Florida Code prohibits “any man and woman, not being married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associat[ing] and cohabit[ing] together.” However, even getting married may not get Floridians off the hook if they have more exotic tastes in the bedroom. The statute also prohibits all state residents, regardless of martial status, from “engag[ing] in open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior.” It seems clear that once you get south of Georgia, it’s safer to be a prude than lewd.

Voter Registration

Florida has passed a draconian law regarding voter registration drives in the past year in a thinly veiled attempt to suppress Democratic turnout in 2012. The law imposes complex and stringent restrictions on anyone attempting to register voters. The result is such menacing culprits as a high school civics teacher have been turned in violating it. It led groups like the League of Women Voters and Rock The Vote from to halt all voter registration efforts in the state and the number of new voters added to rolls plummeted dramatically. This law is unique nationally and currently facing litigation in federal court.

Bestiality

Sometimes the real scandal isn’t what is against the law, it is what is actually legal. Until recently, one of those things that was actually legal in Florida was bestiality. In 1971, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a law that prohibited “abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with beast” as too vague. After all, one man’s abomination is another man’s Saturday night. But as a result, there was no law on the book that prohibited what Rick Santorum famously called “man on dog” in the state of Florida. This went unnoticed until the shocking rape-murder of a goat in Florida’s panhandle on 2008. However, it then took years for Florida to finally ban the perverted practice—not because it had any supporters but merely because the legislators had found it embarrassing and “icky” to debate. Bestiality is still legal in 16 states.

Pregnant Pigs

A constitution is supposed to enshrine the basic structures and principles of a state. It’s not supposed to go into the detail of statute but merely spell out the most fundamental things, the powers of government and the rights of the people. Florida’s constitution protects perhaps the most fundamental right of all: the right of pregnant pigs not to be confined in an enclosure where it cannot turn around freely. This crucial rule was added to the Florida constitution by initiative in 2002. Although one can certainly understand why it would be a law, it does seem like a peculiar fit in a constitution.  After all, such a document is supposed to summarize the first principles of government, not include a language as stirring as making clear that “‘pig’ means any animal of the porcine species.”

Enemy Attack

Florida’s constitution also contains a crucial backup plan should the state be invaded by marauding Georgians or avaricious Alabamans. If Florida is attacked by the enemy, the legislature is empowered to fill whatever offices have been vacated due to attack and take “necessary and appropriate” actions to insure the continuity of government operations. After all,  even in times of war, the state’s pregnant pigs must be protected somehow!