Lawyers oppose expansion of North Dakota ‘castle law’
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A bill that would allow North Dakotans to use deadly force against someone who is fleeing a crime, including misdemeanor offenses is ill-conceived and would create an open season on criminals, prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers and others told lawmakers on Monday.
The measure would expand the state’s “castle law” which allows a person to stand their ground and use whatever force necessary to protect themselves or their home. The bill would allow the use of deadly force outside the home, even if it is to “prevent an unlawful carrying away or damaging of property.”
North Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers president Jackson Lofgren told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the proposal is a “bad law that doesn’t help anyone.”
“It gives the power to an untrained person to shoot down anyone,” he said. “A kid could steal your Christmas decorations and you could gun them down in the street.”
Sen. David Clemens, R-Fargo, told the legislative panel on Monday that he introduced the bill at the request constituents who “wanted more clarity concerning the defense of themselves and property.”
John Ertfelt, a citizen from Barnes County in the eastern part of the state, was the only person beside Clemens to speak in favor of the proposal.
“The criminal element needs to be sent a message that there could be serious consequences for the commission of these crimes,” he said.
Aaron Birst, executive director of the North Dakota State’s Attorney’s Association, said the measure is unneeded because the state’s current law “works great.” North Dakota law currently allows for someone to use deadly force if they or someone else fears for their life, he said.
Someone could be shot for “scratching someone’s car under this bill,” Birst said.
Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said the measure “is contrary to moral law.”
The bill would “allow the use of deadly force — intentional killing — to prevent the wrongdoer from fleeing,” Dodson said.
The committee gave bill the bill a “do not pass” recommendation late Monday. The full Senate will consider it later.