Lawmakers hear plan to expand deadly force

Critics say law could help protect drug dealers, other criminals

Posted: Friday, January 20, 2006

The places where a person could justifiably kill in self-defense would be expanded under a bill now working its way through the legislative committee process.

The bill by Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, drew the support of the National Rifle Association but raised concerns by the Department of Law.

The measure would extend the state's "castle law" in which a person can use whatever force is necessary to protect himself at home.

Brian Judy of the NRA said similar bills were being introduced in statehouses across the nation. He described the bill's intent Thursday before Senate Judiciary Committee.

"If you're walking down the street and a rapist tries to drag you into an alley, or if you're walking through a parking lot and a kidnapper tries to drag you into his van, you do not have to retreat," he said. "You can choose to stand your ground and fight with force."

The proposal was further detailed when Sen. Gretchen Guess, D-Anchorage, asked if somebody shot at her at the mall, would she be able to shoot back without being held liable.

The answer was yes.

"You can't take out your gun and shoot wildly into the crowd," Therriault said. "If, in fact, you took out the aggressor, you would be exempt from prosecution."

Deputy Attorney General Susan Parks said the Department of Law supports the concept of the bill, but it could have negative consequences. First, the measure could make it more difficult to prosecute gang members, drug dealers and other criminals from prosecution if they claim self-defense in a shooting death.

"Our concern here is that this also going to protect the bad guys, because they are going to say, 'I had a right to protect myself,' even if they're up to no good," Parks said.

Second, the families of innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of a self-defense shooting may have no recourse, she said.

The bill was held over by the committee for another hearing.

Also Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard Sen. Con Bunde's bill to increase the prison terms of sex offenders and to use polygraph tests on released offenders to prevent recidivism.

The Anchorage Republican told committee members that long prison sentences is Alaska's only weapon to reduce sex crimes.

"Treatment does not achieve the ends we want to achieve," he said. "We do have one tool ... and that is putting people in jail for longer periods of time."

The measure appeared to have bipartisan support in the committee, with Guess saying that it is a long time coming.

The cost of adding jail time to sex offenders is not clear. Bunde acknowledged it would be expensive to implement, but said it is a cost that a reasonable society has to bear.

Bunde's bill was held over by the committee.

The bills are Senate Bills 200 and 218.

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