Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

01/19/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Scheduled But Not Heard
            SB 200-USE OF FORCE TO PROTECT SELF/HOME                                                                        
VICE-CHAIR  CHARLIE  HUGGINS  announced  SB  200  to  be  up  for                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                                 

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