BOISE — A bill to codify existing “stand your ground” case law is headed to the Senate floor after supporting testimony from Twin Falls public servants.
SB 1313, one of two Castle Doctrine bills this session, would put self-defense principles that already exist in Idaho case law and jury instruction into state code, Sen. Todd Lakey told the Senate State Affairs committee Monday morning. This includes expanding the definition of justifiable homicide to include not only defending one’s home against an intruder, but also defending one’s place of employment or an occupied vehicle.
“The best place to establish and maintain these principles is in Idaho code,” said Lakey, a Republican from Nampa. “The protection of and control over these concepts should be the result of legislative intent and action, not the judiciary.”
Putting the concepts into law would clarify the existing legal standard for everyday citizens who may not be familiar with caselaw or jury instruction, Lakey and supporters of the bill said.
Meanwhile, opponents argued that the bill would encourage people to “shoot first and ask questions later.” Several pointed to data showing increases in justifiable homicides in states that have enacted “Stand Your Ground” legislation and statistics suggesting racial minorities are disproportionately affected when such laws are put into place. Speakers testifying in favor of the bill included Twin Falls Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs and Twin Falls Police Staff Sergeant Brent Wright.
Loebs, who spoke on behalf of himself and the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, described current self-defense statute in Idaho as “very open-ended.”
“The point of this bill is...to clarify what the law is so that citizens of this state understand it and don’t have to hire a lawyer to do research to find out what their rights are,” Loebs said. “A lot of people think that they have to prove that they are defending themselves in court, and that isn’t the case.”
Sen. Michelle Stennett, a Democrat from Ketchum, expressed concern that the law could lead to impulsive and unnecessary shootings.
“I would hope that if somebody is going to kill somebody...they would take a second to wonder whether it’s a good idea or not,” Stennett said. “This is just codifying the ability to not have to think and just act.”
Wright, who testified on behalf of the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police, said he and the Fraternal Order supported the legislation as a way to clear up some of the “massive amount of confusion” surrounding self-defense laws in the state.
The committee voted to send SB 1313 to the Senate floor, with two “no” votes coming from Stennett and Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, a Democrat from Boise.