TAMPA (FOX 13) - In a sweeping decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled law enforcement officers can use the Stand Your Ground law to essentially win immunity from prosecution.
In a unanimous decision, Justice Alan Lawson wrote, because the statute plainly affords Stand Your Ground immunity to "any person" who acts in self-defense, a law enforcement officer is a "person" whether on duty or off.
During a hearing on the issue, Justice Barbara Pariente agreed.
"How do you get around [the fact] that a law enforcement officer is a person? And it didn't say, 'a citizen.' It said, 'a person,'" questioned Pariente.
Justice Jorge LaBarga came to the same conclusion.
"If the legislature intended to exclude police officers from the Stand Your Ground statute, why didn't they say so? They certainly had ample opportunity," argued Justice LaBarga.
The state argued the Stand Your Ground law did not apply to law enforcement because they already have protections when using justifiable force, but the justices did not agree.
Their decision stems from a case where a Broward County deputy was charged with manslaughter in the death of Jermaine McBean.
Investigators say McBean was carrying an air rifle and ignored commands to stop, given by Deputy Peter Peraza.
When McBean pointed the weapon at officers, Deputy Pereza shot and killed him, investigators say.
Pereza's attorney, Eric Schwartzreich argued his client was in fear for his life.
"Deputy Peraza was doing his job and was facing 30 years. Why should he not be able to use all the statutes available, in particular when the Florida legislature said any person?" argued Schwartzreich.
Defense Attorney Anthony Rickman says this ruling gives law enforcement officers an extra layer of protection if they have to use deadly force while on the job.
But Rickman believes the ruling is too broad and sees challenges down the road.
"This opinion now expands that right for an officer to use that force to any circumstance when they are in fear of great bodily harm or of death and it has to reasonable fear," said Rickman.
The attorney representing McBean's family called the ruling an injustice and a slap in the face.