Utah lawmakers advance bill to keep self-defense shootings out of court

Utah lawmakers advance bill to keep self-defense shootings out of court

People who fire a gun in self-defense or otherwise use force in a manner already justified under Utah law would have greater immunity from criminal prosecution under a bill that passed the House of Representatives on Monday. State Rep. Karianne Lisonbee told her colleagues that the measure, HB227 , would decrease the risk that Utahns would face lengthy, costly prosecutions after acting to protect themselves or someone else from violence. “This can be financially devastating to most people,” Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, said, as bill supporters argued the very fear of a drawn-out legal battle could cause people to hesitate before drawing a gun in a life-and-death situation. But House Democrats, who unanimously opposed the bill, worried that the change might have unintended consequences. “We may be in fact encouraging or giving tacit approval to a more aggressive use of deadly force than is wise from a public safety and a public policy perspective,” House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said, adding that he’d like more input from law enforcement and prosecutors before supporting the measure. Utah law already protects against frivolous prosecutions with the inclusion of self-defense justifications, which district attorneys take into consideration before proceeding with criminal charges in the first place, he added. Under HB227, courts would be required to hold a pretrial hearing to review evidence on whether the use of force or threat to use force was justified and could dismiss the charges if the prosecution doesn’t clear a high bar of proving that […]

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