Next Tuesday in Olympia, the House Judiciary Committee is holding a work session to discuss something called “unjust conviction compensation,” but it also appears they will be looking at a way to repeal this state’s unique self-defense compensation statute.
Judiciary – 10/04/11 9:00 am
Senate Hearing Rm 3
J.A. Cherberg Building
Wrongful conviction compensation.
Self-defense reimbursement statute.
Government liability and risk management practices.
Immigration services and assistance.
*Meeting will adjourn at 3 p.m.
Committee Meeting Documents
Note: Documents are not available online until the meeting has begun.
State RCW 9A.16.110 – the only law like it anywhere in the country – provides reimbursement for anyone who must defend himself or herself in court after having to defend themselves against a violent crime and winding up facing criminal charges. Simply put, people subjected to prosecution for having acted in self-defense should not be financially penalized. The state, under the existing statute, should pay that individual’s reasonable legal bills. That’s been the law in Washington since 1977, and simply because the Democrat-controlled Legislature has presently spent the state into a financial quagmire, innocent law-abiding citizens should not be expected to sacrifice this important protection against unjustified prosecution.
Defending against violent crime — Reimbursement.
(1) No person in the state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting by any reasonable means necessary, himself or herself, his or her family, or his or her real or personal property, or for coming to the aid of another who is in imminent danger of or the victim of assault, robbery, kidnapping, arson, burglary, rape, murder, or any other violent crime as defined in RCW 9.94A.030.
(2) When a person charged with a crime listed in subsection (1) of this section is found not guilty by reason of self-defense, the state of Washington shall reimburse the defendant for all reasonable costs, including loss of time, legal fees incurred, and other expenses involved in his or her defense. This reimbursement is not an independent cause of action. To award these reasonable costs the trier of fact must find that the defendant’s claim of self-defense was sustained by a preponderance of the evidence. If the trier of fact makes a determination of self-defense, the judge shall determine the amount of the award.
(3) Notwithstanding a finding that a defendant’s actions were justified by self-defense, if the trier of fact also determines that the defendant was engaged in criminal conduct substantially related to the events giving rise to the charges filed against the defendant the judge may deny or reduce the amount of the award. In determining the amount of the award, the judge shall also consider the seriousness of the initial criminal conduct.
Nothing in this section precludes the legislature from using the sundry claims process to grant an award where none was granted under this section or to grant a higher award than one granted under this section.
(4) Whenever the issue of self-defense under this section is decided by a judge, the judge shall consider the same questions as must be answered in the special verdict under subsection (4) [(5)] of this section.
(5) Whenever the issue of self-defense under this section has been submitted to a jury, and the jury has found the defendant not guilty, the court shall instruct the jury to return a special verdict in substantially the following form:
Top of Form…answer yes or no
Was the finding of not guilty based upon self-defense?
. . . . .
If your answer to question 1 is no, do not answer the remaining question.
If your answer to question 1 is yes, was the defendant:
Protecting himself or herself?
. . . . .
Protecting his or her family?
. . . . .
Protecting his or her property?
. . . . .
Coming to the aid of another who was in imminent danger of a heinous crime?
. . . . .
Coming to the aid of another who was the victim of a heinous crime?
. . . . .
Engaged in criminal conduct substantially related to the events giving rise to the crime with which the defendant is charged?
. . . . .
Bottom of Form
[1995 c 44 § 1; 1989 c 94 § 1; 1977 ex.s. c 206 § 8. Formerly RCW 9.01.200.]
Use of deadly force — Legislative recognition: See note following RCW 9A.16.040.
The statute is not simply an avenue for compensation. It is also a deterrent to overzealous anti-self-defense prosecutors who might be compelled – if the law were repealed – to push cases against people simply to make them “an example.” Under the current law, if a prosecutor pursues such a case and loses, not only are the taxpayers out the cost of the prosecution, they’re also out the cost of the defense.
Supporters of the current statute don’t need to head to Olympia next Tuesday to flood the meeting room because they won’t be allowed to speak.This is a work session, not a public hearing.
However, according to veteran lobbyist Joe Waldron, citizens can contact their state lawmakers right now, and when they convene in late November for a special session to carve more money out of the budget. The message should be clear: Don’t sacrifice the important protections of RCW 9A.16.110.
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