Should victims be able to defend themselves without facing criminal charges?

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ST. GEORGE — A bill up for consideration again this year during the general session of the Utah Legislature would clarify that a person in Utah is not required to retreat from an aggressor.

The bill, designated as 2018 HB 129, proposes to enact Self-Defense Amendments lawfully allowing an individual to defend themselves if attacked, clarifying that they are not legally required to retreat from an aggressor even if there is a safe place to retreat to.

Under current Utah law, a person is not required to run away from a confrontation in which defensive force is justified to stop a threat. However, in a trial setting, prosecutors can argue that the use of force was unreasonable if the person could have retreated to safety.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. A. Cory Maloy, would make it illegal for prosecutors to argue that a person who uses deadly force in an act of self-defense should have taken the opportunity to run instead.

Maloy’s bill specifies that a person need not run away from an attacker if safety can be reached. It would also restrict trial questioning.

Maloy argued last year before the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee that a similar bill was a clarification and not a change to the current statute on self-defense, adding that the bill doesn’t give people a license to initiate or provoke physical confrontations.

Lobbyist for the Utah Chiefs of Police Association David Spatafore asked legislators not to support the bill last year, stating the bill’s passage could send the wrong message to would-be vigilantes.

Any law that justifies use of force should be held to a stringent standard, Spatafore argued, adding that civilians are not trained to know whether to flee or fight within a matter of moments during a confrontation.

The bill was ultimately bounced back to the Senate Rules Committee where it died.

Utah first adopted stand-your-ground laws in 1994. The law originated in a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Barth, D-Salt Lake City, and was reportedly drafted with the intent to help domestic violence victims protect themselves.

At least 22 states have stand-your-ground laws, which have been scrutinized after high-profile shooting deaths like that of an unarmed Florida teen, Trayvon Martin, in 2012.


Read more: See all St. George News stories related to Utah’s 2018 Legislative session


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  • chris keele January 8, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Yes Kimberly, It sure is nice to live in a state where we have the right to defend ourselves and not have to retreat. Listen to that statement, should there even have to be any discussion on whether a person can defend him or her self or family or any innocent defenseless person from having an attack perpetrated on them? That is our God given right. Well I’ll be. What a concept.

  • Utahguns January 8, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    “…..the stand-your-ground laws, have been scrutinized after high-profile shooting deaths like that of an unarmed Florida teen, Trayvon Martin, in 2012.”
    What? Trayvon Martin didn’t have to armed to deserve to be shot.
    Rapists, murderers and criminals would prefer to target an unarmed victim.
    Fortunately, in the states that have stand your ground laws and CCW laws, you’re chances of surviving or thwarting an attack is much greater.

    God made men, Sam Colt made them equal, and John Browning made them civilized.

  • NickDanger January 8, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    Self-defense laws are tough to get right. Everyone agrees people should have the right to defend themselves from an attacker. But the letter of the law is EXTREMELY important when defining this right.

    I’m not going to act like I have the answer. But I do know that with most of these “Stand Your Ground” laws, I could easily concoct a scenario in which it would be very easy to kill someone and claim it was self-defense.

    I don’t want a law so restrictive that I have to pause in the heat of the moment and question whether I’m within my rights to defend myself. But at the same time, I don’t want a law so liberal that anyone could be set up for a “self-defense” murder with just a little planning.

    I’ve lived in a lot of states. None of them have gotten it right yet, and this law’s not quite right either. As usual here in the age of doublespeak, whatever it is they say the law doesn’t do is exactly what it does do – gives people a license to initiate or provoke a confrontation. Maybe not on the surface, maybe not when (if) all the cards are on the table; but if a criminal wants to use this law to commit cold-blooded murder, he can.

    Seems to me that with all the useless lawyers this country produces, someone could find the sweet spot for these kinds of laws.

  • Kyle L. January 8, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Here is the best way to determine if I should use force to defend myself: If someone is on my property and they pose a threat to me or to my family. If this is the case, I don’t care what the law says, they will not be around to argue their case. “Stand your ground” laws are just common sense for normal people. The snowflakes are the only ones that think if someone is threatening you that you should offer them a joint and some free food.

  • utahdiablo January 8, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    Show up inside my home anytime uninvited… trip to the morgue

  • commonsense January 8, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    The gun makes a 90 pound woman equal to a 200 pound punk. Let us never restrict her right to equality. Since Australia confiscated guns, home invasion burglaries have gone up. Elderly couples are most vulnerable. Responsible gun ownership is a fundamental right to any free society.

  • desertgirl January 9, 2018 at 7:42 am

    As far as I’m concerned you give up your right to life if you decide to attack someone when unprovoked; if you wind up dead or seriously injured attempting to hurt or kill someone it is now on you and you only. Breaking into someones home should be an invitation to your demise…..period.

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