ST. GEORGE — A bill up for consideration again this year during the general session of the Utah Legislature would clarify that a person in Utah is not required to retreat from an aggressor.
The bill, designated as 2018 HB 129, proposes to enact Self-Defense Amendments lawfully allowing an individual to defend themselves if attacked, clarifying that they are not legally required to retreat from an aggressor even if there is a safe place to retreat to.
Under current Utah law, a person is not required to run away from a confrontation in which defensive force is justified to stop a threat. However, in a trial setting, prosecutors can argue that the use of force was unreasonable if the person could have retreated to safety.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. A. Cory Maloy, would make it illegal for prosecutors to argue that a person who uses deadly force in an act of self-defense should have taken the opportunity to run instead.
Maloy’s bill specifies that a person need not run away from an attacker if safety can be reached. It would also restrict trial questioning.
Maloy argued last year before the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee that a similar bill was a clarification and not a change to the current statute on self-defense, adding that the bill doesn’t give people a license to initiate or provoke physical confrontations.
Lobbyist for the Utah Chiefs of Police Association David Spatafore asked legislators not to support the bill last year, stating the bill’s passage could send the wrong message to would-be vigilantes.
Any law that justifies use of force should be held to a stringent standard, Spatafore argued, adding that civilians are not trained to know whether to flee or fight within a matter of moments during a confrontation.
The bill was ultimately bounced back to the Senate Rules Committee where it died.
Utah first adopted stand-your-ground laws in 1994. The law originated in a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Barth, D-Salt Lake City, and was reportedly drafted with the intent to help domestic violence victims protect themselves.
At least 22 states have stand-your-ground laws, which have been scrutinized after high-profile shooting deaths like that of an unarmed Florida teen, Trayvon Martin, in 2012.
- Read full text of bill: Utah 2018 HB 129 – Self-Defense Amendments
- Contact legislators
- Bill sponsor: Rep. A. Cory Maloy
- Southern Utah Sens. Evan Vickers, Don Ipson, David Hinkins and Ralph Okerlund | Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Reps. Jon Stanard, Bradley Last, V. Lowry Snow, Walt Brooks, John Westwood, Merrill Nelson and Michael Noel | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
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