Thursday, January 19, 2006

Senators introduce self-defense bill

Staff Writer

Two Mississippi senators, Ralph Doxey and Charlie Ross, have introduced a bill known as the “Castle Doctrine” in this legislative session.

SB 2426 would give Mississippians the right to self defense, Doxey said last week.

Thirty senators co-sponsored the bill which is also backed by the National Rifle Association.

SB 2426 is based on Florida’s 2005 landmark self-defense law, Doxey said.

“The Castle Doctrine means that a man’s home is his castle,” Doxey said in a telephone interview last week. “Florida is the first state in the nation to pass this and Mississippi would be second.”

He said the first section of the bill allows you to presume a person who breaks into your home, in your occupied vehicle, or in your place of business intends to do bodily harm and you may use necessary force against the criminal.

The amendment would protect individuals from criminal prosecution and civil litigation if they are defending themselves from criminal attack, he said, and it also removes the duty to retreat.

The bill is in the form of a constitutional amendment with an effective date of July 1, 2006.

“In Mississippi, you have a duty to retreat if someone attacks,” Doxey said. “Whether in your home or your car, you had to have reasonable apprehension the person intended to do you imminent and serious bodily harm before you could defend yourself with deadly force.”

Doxey is vice-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox said, “Mississippians are off to a good start this year with the introduction of the Ross-Doxey self-defense bill. Mississippi courts have consistently recognized the ‘stand your ground’ principle, both inside and outside the home, since the late 1800s. The full burden of the criminal justice system should fall on the criminal and not on the victim, and this bill would codify it into law.”

Cox urged Mississippians to contact their representatives to support this self-defense law.

“With their help, we eagerly look forward to the day when judges and prosecutors are required to protect victims’ rights,” he said.

A similar bill in the House of Representatives, HB 882, approved by a 104-13 vote would expand the bill to include the right to use force against a person invading a car or trespassing at a business. Under this bill, any shooting will be referred to a grand jury.

Under state law, persons who legitimately defend their home or family will not be prosecuted, said Clay Joyner, president of the Mississippi Prosecutors Association, in an article published Friday by the Clarion-Ledger.

The title summary of SB 2426 states:

“An act to amend section 97-3-15, Mississippi Code of 1972, to define “dwelling”, to create a presumption of the right to use defensive force, to specify when no duty to retreat exists, to provide immunity from criminal prosecution under certain circumstances as they relate to justifiable homicide, and to provide indemnification for certain legal expenses; and for related purposes.”

HB 882 extends the right of a person to use self-defense if in an occupied vehicle. The bill defined a dwelling as “a building, or conveyance of any kind that has a roof over it, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, including a tent, that is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night, including any attached porch.”

The bill does not presume the right to use defensive force if “the person against whom the defensive force is used has a right to be in or is a lawful resident or owner of the dwelling or vehicle, or if the person who uses defensive force is engaged in unlawful activity.”

The house bill provides immunity from prosecution and for any civil liability for injuries or death resulting from the use of defensive force, if the defensive force is used in accordance with the provisions of amended HB 882.

HB 882 was introduced by Representatives Holland, Reeves and Franks.

Rep. Tommy Woods voted for HB 882.

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