Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
01/19/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 200-USE OF FORCE TO PROTECT SELF/HOME VICE-CHAIR CHARLIE HUGGINS announced SB 200 to be up for consideration. 8:55:24 AM SENATOR GENE THERRIAULT, bill sponsor, presented SB 200, which he said was introduced at the end of session last year. A similar law was enacted in Florida through overwhelming bipartisan support. He expressed interest in hearing from the Department of Law any concerns or comments they might have. SB 200 is not intended to promote undue force but to establish as a baseline the right of a person to stand their ground wherever they have a legal right to be and use whatever force necessary to protect themselves or, in certain cases, others. It is not the intent of the bill to cause lawlessness among the populace. 8:58:37 AM VICE-CHAIR HUGGINS called the first witness. 8:59:38 AM MR. BRIAN JUDY, representing the Alaska members of the National Rifle Association, testified in support of SB 200, which he believes is based on the "Castle Doctrine" from the Bible. It basically says that a person's home is their castle and they have every right to protect it. The principle of having no guilt for injuring or killing an intruder is found in the Old Testament in Exodus 22:2. Essentially people have a right to be as safe in their homes as a king in his castle and may use all manner of force including deadly force to protect the home and its inhabitants from attack. He said under existing Alaska law there is already a provision of no duty to retreat if a person is on the premises, which the person owns, or leases. SB 200 would extend that to any place where the person has a right to be. 9:01:27 AM Under SB 200 a person does not have to retreat and can fight using force against force. SB 200 would not give carte blanche authority to shoot someone for a minor offense or attack. Another component of SB 200 is the provision of immunity for victims who have used lawful defensive force to prevent an attack. Criminals and their families would be prohibited from suing the victims for injuries incurred by the attacker. Mr. Judy recommended adding "or another person" to Page 2 line 6 after the words "for self defense" as a possible amendment. Also, in addition to removing the duty to retreat and providing immunity from civil liability, provide an absolute presumption that anyone who unlawfully and forcefully enters a person's dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is there to do harm and therefore any manner of force can be used against that person without fear of prosecution or civil suit. He said the Florida Times Union, a mainstream newspaper, is in full support of the similar law that their Legislature recently passed. 9:05:36 AM MR. JUDY closed by urging support for the bill. VICE-CHAIR HUGGINS asked Mr. Judy whether there have been instances where the new law in Florida has been invoked. MR. JUDY said he has not heard of any. He said SB 200 would only change what would happen after the fact. It would prevent law- abiding citizens from being victims a second time. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked about current legislative action around the country since the Florida law passed. 9:07:27 AM MR. JUDY stated that many sessions are just beginning now, such as Alaska, but that many states are introducing similar legislation. 9:08:46 AM SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS referred to Page 2 lines 9-15 and asked whether a person would be liable for whatever damage occurred while shooting towards a person who was shooting at them. SENATOR THERRIAULT responded the bill would not remove the duty to take care not to harm others while defending oneself against an aggressor. SENATOR HOLLIS FRENCH asked Mr. Judy to explain the places that a person has a right to be. SENATOR THERRIAULT explained obvious places such as a person's own home or car. However, there are also ordinances where police could exempt people from being in places they are normally welcome but SB 200 would operate within the bounds of many other laws. 9:12:05 AM VICE-CHAIR HUGGINS aired the concerns of some of his constituents in that they believe a degree of protection for defending oneself is needed. He expressed support for the bill. SENATOR THERRIAULT clarified a person would have no right to harm a law enforcement officer in the course of duty. SENATOR GUESS referred to Page 2 line 10 where "to a certainty" was inserted. She asked for an explanation of the phrase. SENATOR THERRIAULT deferred the question to the Department of Law but said that it was a very high standard. 9:14:20 AM VICE-CHAIR HUGGINS asked for a representative from the Department of Law. 9:14:39 AM MS. SUSAN PARKES, Deputy Attorney General, Criminal Division, Department of Law (DOL) said she met with Senator Therriault's staff to address some concerns about the bill. "To a certainty" was one of the issues discussed. The phrase is a higher standard than what is currently the law. The concern is the prosecution already has the obligation to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Adding that phrase makes it an almost impossible standard, however it is not defined and it would need to be when giving instruction to jurors. 9:16:39 AM SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Ms. Parkes to speak more about gang scenarios and how the bill would affect that. MS. PARKES said two years ago with the Governor's crime bill they carved out areas where self-defense could not be used as an excuse for violence. When engaged in a felony drug transaction or when promoting a gang objective, self-defense cannot be claimed. The DOL supports giving lawful rights to citizens to defend their families however, she expressed concern that SB 200 would protect criminals as well. 9:18:31 AM SENATOR FRENCH commented the right to self-defense pre-dates government. He asked Ms. Parkes whether she has had conversations with prosecution agencies in Florida to see whether the new law was working as intended. MS. PARKES responded the DOL intends to contact Florida to check whether the law is working or if it has created problems. SENATOR FRENCH said SB 200 is perceived by at least one high profile criminal defense lawyer as an avenue to make it more difficult for the state to prosecute gun crimes. It is currently very difficult to get over the self-defense hurdle. The flip side is that citizens should feel entitled to defend themselves. He solicited examples from anyone in the room or online instances of citizens having failed to defend themselves when they should have and/or citizens being prosecuted for defending themselves when they should not have been prosecuted. 9:21:49 AM MS. PARKES commented currently a person has the right to use deadly force in a public place or anywhere under a lot of circumstances. That is already protected under current law. The biggest concern is the innocent bystander issue that Senator Guess raised. The law does not have the requirement that people be a "good shot." 9:23:47 AM VICE-CHAIR HUGGINS asked Ms. Parkes the impact of civil liability in regards to the bill. MS. PARKES informed the chairman that Section 1 gives immunity if self-defense was properly used. The DOL has no concerns regarding Section 1. 9:26:28 AM MS. PARKES continued by noting much public support for people who want to protect their homes and businesses. Therefore the DOL is looking forward to working on the bill with Senator Therriault's staff. Representative Coghill has drafted an identical bill as well. VICE-CHAIR HUGGINS asked for further testimony. Seeing none he announced the committee would set SB 200 aside.