An Idaho senate committee gave the green light Monday to a bill that would add extra protections for those who harm or kill someone in self-defense.
Backers of the plan, like the National Rifle Association, law enforcement and prosecutor lobbying groups say Idaho has a rich legal history of supporting those who use deadly force while defending their homes or their families, but that they want it enshrined in state law.
During a senate committee hearing Monday, however, only a handful of people defended it – with many saying they’re afraid it will result in far more accidental killings.
Anyone who attempts to break into another person’s house, business or occupied car would be presumed to be committing a felony under the bill – meaning deadly force could legally be used against them.
That provision didn’t sit well with many who testified.
“Presumptions are for juries. Presumptions are for attorneys to put forth to the jury – a jury of peers – who get to make that decision. There’s only one presumption: the presumption of innocence,” says Terri Pickens Manweiler, a Boise attorney.
“I would hope that if somebody is going to kill somebody – commit a felony, murder somebody – that they would take a second to wonder whether it’s a good idea or not,” says Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, one of the two who voted against the measure.
Twin Falls Prosecutor Grant Loebs supports the bill and says he wants people to stop and consider any type of force they might use, but that it’s almost impossible to know an intruder’s motives in confrontations that may last just a few seconds.
“The problem is, you can’t always know that and my point is this places the person defending their home in the legal position of having to know what’s in the mind of the person intruding their home, the current law does. This [bill] takes that away,” Loebs says.
The bill also wouldn’t require someone to retreat from an intruder or attacker first – which is already included in laws across nearly half the country.
Still, some like Seth Rosquist from the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, say the proposal doesn’t go far enough.
Instead of a presumption of innocence under the law, Roquist says those who defend themselves should have complete immunity from criminal prosecution.
The measure passed along party lines and will now be debated by the full Senate.
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