COLUMBIA - A state representative is seeking to have South Carolina's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law removed from the castle doctrine.
The change to the law
What Mitchell wants to strike out of the Reasonable Protection of Persons and Property Act:
Section C: "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in another place where he has a right to be, including, but not limited to, his place of business, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or another person or to prevent the commission of a violent crime as defined in Section 16-1-60."
What Mitchell wishes to add: The original castle doctrine bill did not include business owners. Under the Reasonable Protection of Persons and Property Act, the castle doctrine will also apply to business owners.
Under the "Reasonable Protection of Persons and Property Act," Rep. Harold Mitchell is seeking to delete the portion of current law that allows for a person to "stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force" if the person is "in another place where he has the right to be" if he or she believes force is necessary to prevent death or bodily injury or to himself or another person.
In 2006, state law was amended to allow people to claim immunity from prosecution if they kill a person in self-defense at any location without the need to retreat. Mitchell's bill would amend the law to its original, castle doctrine form. A person will still be able to use deadly force if someone is breaking into his or her home and vehicle and the new amendment would also include businesses.
Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, added striking the stand-your-ground-anywhere portion of the bill is necessary, because the state has created a "recipe for disaster" by adopting bills such as the guns in bars bill that allows for concealed weapons permit holders to carry a gun into a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol, as long as the permit holder doesn't drink booze. He referred to the current law as a "Wild West standard."
"We've created a reckless environment," Mitchell said. "We're telling people to just invite trouble."
Mitchell will hold a press conference in the lobby of the Statehouse at 11:30 a.m., today, in an effort to bring attention to the bill and to inform people that it's not his intention to strike down the entire bill, but to delete the portion that's "unfair."
"We're trying to correct a mistake that was made when it was amended," Mitchell said. "You just can't take a life for no reason, and then hijack and extort the castle doctrine to justify it."
Jeff Moore, executive director of the South Carolina Sheriff's Association, said the law enforcement community would welcome a review of the law, which he believes has "just gotten out of hand."
"We believed when it was first passed that it was a prescription for abuse," Moore said. "Until it's modified we really see it as an excuse to shoot just about anybody for anything as long as you claim 'stand your ground.'"
Moore added the law is good fundamentally, but the way it's written and being used is wrong. He cited several recent cases where the law has been invoked, such as a movie theater shooting in Florida and a February shooting in Lexington, where a teenager allegedly stabbed a high school senior to death.
"I find it interesting that every time you have one of these circumstances the dead person is always unarmed," Moore said. "That's where we are in this statute, where you have ludicrous appeals and ludicrous shootings that are leaving people dead and injured."
The attorney of the teenaged defendant in the Lexington case, Todd Rutherford, said he doesn't see any reason to repeal the stand your ground law. Rutherford - who is also the minority leader of the state House of Representatives and a Democrat from Columbia - said the cases opponents of the law cite are laughable.
"The cases in Florida that everybody looks at as to stand your ground being bad are bad cases," Rutherford said. "I have not seen the case yet that demands that stand your ground be repealed."
Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.
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