Criminals should note new defense law
by Owen Schroeder
Criminals in Tennessee had better take notice.
Gov. Phil Bredesen has signed into law a bill that will allow an individual to use deadly force to protect him or herself wherever they have a legal right to be. The bill also provides civil immunity for those who defend themselves from criminal attack.
The "Castle Doctrine"î self-defense bill received near unanimous approval in the legislature where all but one of the members voted for the bill. Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, was present, but did not vote on the issue.
Under the previous law, a person using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury was presumed to have reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the incident occurred within the person's own residence.
The new law expands the presumption clause to any residence or dwelling, including an occupied vehicle.
Under the new law, a person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and is in a place where they have a right to be would have no duty to retreat before:
# Threatening or using force against another person when and to the degree the person reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful force; or
These provisions would apply when the force is used against another person who is not a member of the person's family or household and who unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence or dwelling.
The threat or use of force against another is not justified:
# If the person using force consented to the exact force used or attempted by the other individual.
# If the person using force provoked the other individual's use or attempted use of unlawful force, unless the person using force abandons the encounter or clearly communicates to the other the intent to do so and the other person nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful force against the person.
The new law provides immunity from civil liability for a person who uses lawful force in defense of self, others, or property
except when the force is used against a law enforcement officer acting in an official capacity.
Civil immunity for the use of justifiable force would not apply if the use of force resulted in property damage to or the death or injury of an innocent bystander.
The complete bill can be found at www.legislature.state.tn.us
. Search for HB1907.