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Odds and Ends

Posted at 10:35 AM on March 14, 2008 by Michael Marchio (3 Comments)

We're one week away from the Easter bye, and the triumvirate of Sens. Rest, Higgins and Scheid shows no signs of giving up those top three posts in the power rankings.

Expect a flurry of bills to be sent through committee hearings next week. Lawmakers are going to want to tell constituents back home how they've been doing the people's business in St. Paul, and the more they bring back, the more points you MFL managers get.

Yesterday, the Senate passed its version of the I-35W victim compensation. The differences between it and the House version are pretty significant, with $25 million set aside for victims, and individual caps of $400,000 in the Senate, and $40 million and no individual limits in the House version, so I'd predict some conference committee points there next week.

In the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee, an attempt to expand the "Castle Doctrine" was shot down. This allows for the use of lethal force when a person's home is invaded. The bill would have expanded this to include cars and workplaces. It failed on a tie vote, but Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, said he's confident we haven't seen the last of the bill.

What do you MFL managers think? Should people be expected to flee when they're threatened?

Comments (3)

It's not surprising that even the Commish would mistakenly state that the Castle Doctrine would allow people to use force "when a person's home is invaded." That's because the forces advocating this bill have consistently mischaracterized both the existing law and what the proposed law would allow.

Consider how Tim Pawlenty framed it:

"I hope they bring it back in the form of an amendment," Pawlenty said. "It seems to me if you're in your own home and someone intrudes and invades and they are presenting a threat to you or your family, you should not have to flee from your own home." (AP via Star Tribune)

The problem is, that isn't what the law says.

For example Rep. Cornish, who introduced HF498, explains the state of the existing law accurately in his press release, but then distorts what it means:

"Since the early 1990’s, Minnesota's higher courts have ruled that one has a “duty to retreat, if possible" when attacked anywhere outside of one's dwelling. This bill would permit a person to stand his ground if attacked anywhere - either inside or outside of his home. But to use lethal force away from the home, that person must have a reasonable belief that he is in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death from another person."

In fact, the right to defend one's "Castle" is really undisputed (Star Tribune):

[Doug] Johnson [Washington County Attorney] said three people in the last 18 months in Minnesota have been involved in shootings protecting their homes and no one has been charged, including an incident when police mistakenly broke into a house and the homeowner fired at them in self-defense.

HF 498 states:

"Subd. 2. Circumstances when authorized. The use of deadly force by an individual in self defense is authorized by this section when the act is undertaken:

(1) to resist or prevent an offense or attempted offense by an assailant, which the individual reasonably believes constitutes an imminent threat that exposes the individual or another person to substantial or great bodily harm or death; or

(2) to resist or prevent the commission, in the individual's dwelling or occupied vehicle, of an offense or attempted offense that the individual reasonably believes is a felony."

Subd. 3. Degree of force; retreat. An individual using defensive action under circumstances described in subdivision 2 may stand the individual's ground in any place where the individual has a legal right to be, and may use all force and means, including deadly force, that the individual believes is required to succeed in defense. The individual may meet force with superior force, so long as the individual's objective is defense. The individual is not required to retreat, and may continue defensive actions against an assailant until the assailant is no longer an imminent threat."

To summarize:

- You already have the right to defend "your castle."
- This bill would give you the right to use "superior" and "deadly force" and continue to do so, even if the person is fleeing.
- The bill expands the definition of "dwelling," and would basically allow someone to shoot and kill someone attempting commit a felony (even, I presume, a property crime.)

Posted by Aaron | March 14, 2008 2:46 PM

Great comment, Aaron. You're precisely right that the ability to defend yourself with force in your home is already on the books.

The big quandry with this bill, in my interpretation, is how do you determine what is a "substantial" threat of bodily harm.

Here's the statute book:

Bodily harm. "Bodily harm" means physical pain or injury, illness, or any
impairment of physical condition.

Substantial bodily harm. "Substantial bodily harm" means bodily injury which
involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial
loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or which causes a fracture of
any bodily member.

Great bodily harm. "Great bodily harm" means bodily injury which creates a
high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a
permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or
other serious bodily harm.

So according to this, great bodily harm is a threat on your life, bodily harm could be something like a punch to the gut or a shove, but substantial bodily harm, which would allow for lethal force under the bill, is anything in between? It seems like a difficult thing to qualify, and whether someone is within their legal rights taking another person's life on a provision so open to interpretation is something that a lot of people would probably have a problem with.

Posted by Michael Marchio | March 17, 2008 12:02 PM

Another interesting tidbit about the top 10 is that four of them are rookies: Senators Kathy Sheran, Rick Olseen, and Tony Lourey and Rep Tom Anzelc. We have some real achievers in the rookie class!

--Linda Higgins, Exhausted Old Geezer Senator Who is Ready for Spring Break!

Posted by linda higgins | March 17, 2008 4:32 PM