Justifiable homicide diluted?

by Guy Page

Changes to state law about justifiable homicide signed into law May 13 by Gov. Phil Scott could remove legal protections from citizens defending some attack victims, critics say – including Gov. Scott himself.

The chairs of the powerful House and Senate Judiciary committees say existing ‘Good Samaritan’ legislation and Supreme Court precedent offer sufficient protection.

H145, “standards for law enforcement use of force,” deals mostly with restricting police officers’ use of the chokehold. However, the following amendment (page 7 on the PDF of the law) applies to all citizens:
If a person kills or wounds another under any of the circumstances enumerated below, he or she shall be guiltless:
(1) in the just and necessary defense of the person’s own life or the person’s spouse, parent, child, sibling, guardian, or ward; or
(2) if the person reasonably believed that he or she was in imminent peril and that it was necessary to repel that peril with deadly force, in the forceful or violent suppression of a person attempting to commit murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, burglary, or robbery.

A clear reading of the new law above strongly implies that “if a person kills or wounds under any of the circumstances” not enumerated, he or she may be found guilty of homicide. Therefore if someone physically defends a non-enumerated person – such as a friend, a non-nuclear family member, a fellow worshipper in church, or just a stranger in need of help, the laws regarding justifiable homicide as outlined in this law do not apply.

Before signing H145, Gov. Scott wrote a letter to the Legislature explaining his concern that the justifiable homicide change could “potentially make someone into a criminal for stepping up to protect the victim of a violent crime if they injure or kill the attacker.”

Nonsense, the Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary committees told Scott in a May 13 letter: citing several Supreme Court decisions upholding the right to self-defense, Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington) and Rep. Maxine Grad (D-Moretown) said “Self-defense and defense of others under the common law are available to intervenors now and will continue to be available once H.145 becomes law…..It was not the intent of the General Assembly to limit the application of these common law defenses, nor does H.145 have the effect of limiting them.”

The National Rifle Association on May 7 warned Vermonters of the legislative history and possible consequences of H.145. “It was amended in the Senate and now represents a striking blow to citizens’ right to self-defense,” the statement said. “The bill had passed the House without the amendment, but the troublesome language was added late in the process before clearing the Senate.”

“H.145, by Rep. Maxine Grad, as currently written, would eliminate legal protections for those engaged in self-defense in the aid of others,” the NRA said. “These protections evaporate if you are fending off a violent attack for anyone other than yourself or an immediate family member. For example, the convenience store manager rescuing a clerk from an armed robber or an individual helping a neighbor who has come under violent criminal attack would now be in legal jeopardy and could face prosecution. It’s also perplexing that the standard under the ‘justifiable homicide’ statute is now at odds with those existing under the ‘aggravated assault’ statute.”

Categories: Gunrights

8 replies »

  1. Well, Phil- If you had a problem with the law-(which there clearly seems to be) Why did you sign it?
    I’m not sure cowering to Maxine Grad or Dick Sears is a smart policy for you. It certainly is not good for Vermont.

    • He could care less about what’s good for Vermont – he wants to be popular & sit at the “cool kids” table in the cafeteria which now is occupied by those who cannot distinguish between males & females, those who love slaughtering unborn babies, those who believe in general that was once right is horribly wrong and those who will still wear two masks everywhere regardless of the fact that they are fully vaccinated.

      One of the primary reasons VT was once the safest state in the union is because outsiders knew they were going to get a beat down by someone with something if they were acting the hoodlum. But today? So many LOVE bad behavior & violence – and Vermont has slipped in those rankings despite its small population. And that’s exactly why an innocent young mother had her throat slit in Bennington a few months ago in broad daylight.

      I will CONTINUE to protect my fellow Vermonter, however. We ARE our brother’s keeper & THAT the government can NOT change!

  2. Vermont’s overall “duty to retreat” self-defense strictures have always been unreasonable and outdated and this proposal is not helping. Especially in this age where the misguided and ignorant left is demanding more restrictions on and the defunding of police and increased restrictions on firearms, the citizenry (which they refer to as “the community”) needs even MORE latitude to defuse deadly threats. We used to be able to defer to the common-sense of a jury being guided by the principles of what would a “reasonable person” do under the circumstances. Now that the leftist authoritarian safety nazis are defining “reasonable”, we are all in grave danger, both from the criminal element and from government itself. What Vermont needs badly are affirmative self-defense laws for those facing criminal aggression, at minimum a Castle Doctrine mentality and better yet, a Stand-Your-Ground statute. The Vermont Legislature members live a very coddled existence and dont seem to realize this need. Not many of them have worked the counter in a convenience store and had a junkie’s gun pointed in their faces.

  3. The response from the Legislature is just another example of its uncanny knack for speaking out of both sides of its mouth.  If, as the Legislature’s May 13, 2021 response to Governor Scott’s concern about H.145 claims, the issue (particularly as it relates to protection of persons other than one’s self or one’s immediate family) is adequately covered by common law and Vermont Supreme Court decisions, one has to wonder why there was a need to amend the Justifiable Homicide provisions in Sec. 4. 13 V.S.A. § 2305.  Moreover, given the overall intent of H.145 is to modify the behavior of Vermont’s law enforcement community, one can’t help but wonder why the Legislature believed that the amendments in question, which are directed specifically at members of the public (i.e., not law enforcement officers), needed to be included at all.

    Given the ambiguity that these amendments add to the question, I’m disappointed that Governor Scott signed the bill into law.

  4. Why is it that so many other states are giving citizens more liberty/rights regarding self defense and the defense of others, and their property, (stand your own ground, concealed carry, open carry constitutional carry, and or shall issue permits) and the dingbats under the “Golden Dumb” are doing just the opposite ? If they think that the way things are done in Massachusetts, and New York is so righteous, why did so many of them move here ?

    • Saw a great bumper sticker up in Maine last summer: “Go Back to the State You Ruined”…

  5. Just another example of why you need to change your legislators to people who love freedom, not Tyranny. (quick hint avoid most of those on the left, and we can weed out the ones on the right, I’m talking about Phil Scott here for sure)

    This legislation should never have hit the floor let alone get voted on or ratified. Neither should any of the racist material coming out of our legislation. All of it should have been reported as an assault on your rights by main stream media. They were silent, and this should tell you what you need to know they are working as one and the same.

    I’m sick of telling people to vote for someone new. This is what you voted for. Get your head out of your arses and make a change. Look at other states, we don’t have to wait to vote we just need enough signatures….

    Tyranny is rampant in this once great now broke state. It’s awful to watch one party rule with no real conversation and no regard for the constitution. Every single one of your rights were violated last year and most of you are asleep and don’t even know it. Why have the constitution if you aren’t going to fight for it?

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