BOISE — The Idaho Senate passed a version of a law commonly referred to as “stand your ground” or the “castle doctrine” Friday. The bill, according to sponsor Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, mostly codifies in law existing Idaho court decisions concerning when residents can use a gun to defend themselves.
Lakey emphasized that since a 1909 Idaho Supreme Court decision there has been no obligation to try to flee an attacker.
“One need not retreat,” he said.
Lakey’s law specifies that anyone entering a home, place of work or vehicle with force or threats of violence will be assumed to have had the intent to commit a felony. The burden would be on prosecutors to prove that the shooter in such a situation didn’t behave as a reasonable person would have.
Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, who came under fire last week for screaming at students who had come to lobby for a birth control bill in the Capitol hallway, said he supported the “reasonable person” standard.
“A reasonable person cannot wait in many life and death situations to find out whether a danger is real or apparent,” he said.
Foreman, a former police officer, said in rural areas the police can’t make it to the scene of a home break-in in time to prevent it.
Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said although the bill mainly codifies existing Idaholaw, it will be helpful to gather all that code in one place rather than spreading it through obscure Supreme Court cases.
Much of the debate against the bill centered around a provision that would shift the burden of proof for justifying a shooting from the shooter to prosecutors.
Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, an attorney, said he was concerned the shift in the burden of proof could mean there are situations where there is simply no evidence to evaluate in order to determine whether a killing was justified. If someone enters a home and the owner shoots him, the person entering is dead and the shooter can’t be compelled to give any testimony because of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said she worried the bill would encourage more shootings, particularly in public places because motor vehicles can be found basically everywhere, and the bill treats vehicles similarly to homes.
“Where are the rights of the individuals or the public in this?” she said.
The bill passed on a party-line vote. It next moves to the Senate.
Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.