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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Castle Doctrine Bills Effectively Dead for 2012

The two remaining Castle Doctrine Bills, HB 48 and SB 4 are effectively dead for the year.  HB 48 had been in a conference committee of the House and Senate until yesterday.  Today, the House of Delegates passed by the Conference Report indefinitely and the Senate recommitted the bill to Senate Courts of Justice, pursuant to Senate Rule 20 (g).  Rule 20 (g) states:
The Senate, upon consideration of any bill or resolution on the Calendar, may recommit, in accordance with these Rules, the bill or resolution to the Committee reporting the same, and direct the Committee to continue the bill or resolution until the following odd-numbered year regular session, and hold such hearings or render such further consideration of the bill or resolution as the committee may deem proper.
In short, HB 48 is on life support.  Any action that may be taken will be completed in the fall when committees determine what they will do with legislation carried over from the previous session.  Historically, carried over bills do not have a great history of advancing.

SB 4, which emerged from House Courts of Justice on Friday in a form similar to HB 48, was on final reading today and was rereferred back to Courts of Justice, effectively defeating the bill for the year as all committee action had to be completed by March 5th.

Both HB 48 and SB 4 fell victim to several things, not least of which was an active campaign by some claiming that the bills would harm the status quo related to self defense (Virginia is what is commonly referred to as a "stand your ground" state).  Both bills however only addressed Virginia's Civil Code, and HB 48 included a provision that stated:

This section shall not be construed to limit, withdraw, or overturn any defense or immunity already existing in statutory or common law prior to the effective date of this law.
While Virginia common law is good when it comes to self defense, it has always been VSSA's position that we should not wait until some enterprising lawyer decides to sue on behalf of a criminal or his/her family, an individual who defended themselves from an attack.  Just because such a case has not occurred to date does not mean one will never occur.  VSSA will continue to work with legislators to pass a Castle Doctrine law that both preserves the protections already in law and provides additional protection for an individual who may be forced to use lethal force to defend themselves and their family.

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