Panel OKs ‘stand your ground’ bill

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Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, presenting SB 1313 to the Senate State Affairs Committee Monday. (Photo by KYLE PFANNENSTIEL)

BOISE ­— An Idaho Senate panel passed a bill Monday to add protections for people using deadly force against people illegally on their property as part of “stand your ground” legislation.

SB 1313, sponsored by Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, is one of two “stand your ground” bills the legislature is considering this session. It passed on a 7-2 party line vote. The other, HB 444, was introduced in a House committee late January by Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett. It has not yet received a public hearing.

Lakey’s bill would make it so people in their homes, workplaces, businesses or vehicles could use deadly force to defend themselves when anyone enters without permission. It states the standard of reasonable use of force in court comes from the perspective of a “reasonable person placed in the same position.”

Lakey said his bill “takes a more collaborative” and “common-sense approach to this issue” than Zito’s. He noted that the other bill only adds protection outside of homes to porches, while his bill adds protection to one’s property outside their home.

His legislation, SB 1313, is endorsed by the Idaho Prosecutorial Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Rifle Association — all groups he collaborated with in drafting the bill. Lakey and others held that his bill would primarily clarify existing case law on justifiable homicide, while adding an additional clause that states the standard of proving the use of force was unjustified would be on the prosecutor.

“It is the purview and responsibility of the legislature to establish and maintain and potentially adjust in the future these principles. The protection of and control over these concepts should be the result of legislative action, not the judiciary,” he told the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Public testimony on the bill lasted roughly two hours. Many spoke in favor and against the bill, many on the grounds that it assumes people’s intentions, as SB 1313 states anyone in someone’s property illegally is assumed to be committing a felony. Those who opposed felt the bill encourages people to “shoot first and ask questions later.”

Others, like Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said the bill clarifies existing rights.

“I don’t think that you should have to be a legal expert to understand what your rights are,” he said before moving to send the bill to the floor.

The nine-person panel’s two Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett of Ketchum and Assistant Minority Leader Cherie Buckner-Webb of Boise, voted against the bill.

Buckner-Webb said the bill’s language on assumption of people’s intent presented problems for her. She recalled on advice she heard while she was door-knocking while seeking re-election.

“I was even cautioned not have black men knock on doors at night because of where we live, and the circumstances that might occur because someone would assume that they were in their neighborhood and they hadn’t been in their neighborhood … They could make a presumption of who they are and why they are there. That’s my main concern,” she said.

SB 1313 moves to the Senate floor for a vote, where it has eleven co-sponsors. It has to clear both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s desk to become law.

Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

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