Stand your ground law, shot down in committee, brought back on Senate floor

KELOLAND.com Original

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — HB 1212, has been resurrected in the Senate using a controversial “smoke out” rule just hours after it was killed off in the Senate Judiciary committee. The bill will now have the chance to be debated by the Senate at large.


A controversial bill failed in a senate committee on Thursday that would have given private citizens the right to use deadly force if they believed it was necessary to “prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony” if they are “in a place where the person has a right to be.”

Opponents of the bill, HB 1212, say this would allow any person to kill anyone anywhere if they believe they are stopping a “forcible felony,” defined as any felony that involves the use or the threat of physical force or violence against a person. This justification of force would also apply to defense of property, which includes trespass and criminal interference with property, such as cases of car theft or vandalization.

The bill would also provide both criminal and civil immunity for an individual who believes they used deadly force for self-defense. This drew criticism from opponents who say a person could then kill someone they think may have been attempting to steal their car, and if a court determines they believed their property was in danger, they would be immune from a civil suit filed by the victim’s family, regardless of the actual intentions of the deceased.

Rep. Kevin Jensen, who introduced the bill, says South Dakota’s current laws around things such as justifiable homicide are old and that he thinks they are hard to understand. He says that the purpose of the bill is to simplify and clarify South Dakota’s current laws.

Senate Judiciary Chair Arthur Rusch, pushing back on this claim, said that this is not just a re-write, but that it makes major changes.

Other criticisms brought are that the bill circumvents the constitutional right of innocence until guilt is proven by presuming guilt in section 7.

“A person who unlawfully enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.”

Section 7 of HB 1212

A do pass motion was brought by Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, and seconded by Sen. Michael Rohl. The motion failed by a vote of 2-4.

A motion to defer the bill to the 41st legislative day was then brought by Sen. Timothy John and seconded by Sen. David Wheeler. This motion passed with a vote of 4-2, effectively killing the bill.

Read the full text of the bill by clicking here. To see other bills discussed this session, click here.

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