By Bryan Wells
INDIANAPOLIS– The Senate voted 42-7 Monday for a bill that would shield someone from a lawsuit if they justifiably used force – including deadly force – to protect another individual from harm.
House Bill 1284, which earlier passed the House 80-13, now returns to the House to see if that chamber agrees with any changes made in the Senate.
Indiana’s current policy states that individuals have the right to defend themselves and others from harm or crime that poses a threat to one’s life. That protects citizens from criminal prosecution, but doesn’t provide the defendant with civil immunity from lawsuits.
Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, cited the case of an Ohio County woman, Kystie Phillips, who was sued after fatally shooting a man who was trying to wrestle a holstered gun from an off-duty Indiana conservation officer in February 2017. The lawsuit, filed by the dead man’s family, was later dismissed. She tearfully testified to a Senate committee in March about the toll the incident took on her.
“This bill is not only necessary, it’s needed,” Crider said.
But Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said HB 1284 allows individuals to pick and choose who’s the bad guy in certain instances.
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, tells his colleagues that HB 1284 will let individuals pick and choose who’s the bad guy in confrontations. Photo by Bryan Wells, TheStatehouseFile.com
“I’m walking down the street and I see two people fighting. Under this bill I get to choose who’s the winner and who’s the loser. I get to walk up and shoot somebody and as long as I can show that I wasn’t trying to kill them because I just wanted to kill somebody, but I really thought the other person that they were beating up was in danger, I’m immune,” he said.
“This applies to some of the hard-hitting brothers in my neighborhood who might be a little tired of taken a whooping from a police officer,” Taylor. “Think about it.”
Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said there are “safeguards” in the bill so that people acting recklessly are still accountable for their actions.
“This bill, all it’s about is giving somebody immunity in where their actions are justified in using deadly force,” Young said. “If I’m justified in using deadly force, I would be protected. But there are some safeguards here. First of all, the prosecutor gets to play a role here, he gets to say whether it’s justified or not. But guess what? If you make a mistake, you’re going to be held accountable.”
Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, argues that HB 1284 will protect individuals who use force to protect others. Photo by Bryan Wells, TheStatehouseFile.com
Bryan Wells is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.