Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Santarsiero Opposes Castle Doctrine

from the inbox:

State Rep. Steven J., D-Bucks, today voted against legislation known as the Castle Doctrine bill, which would expand a person's right to use deadly force in certain situations.

The bill was approved 164-37 by the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Santarsiero said he voted against the bill because it did nothing to make residents safer, but could well increase the risk of deadly force being used against law-abiding citizens.

"This bill does not offer any real additional protections to potential victims of crime, but rather considerably increases the likelihood of deadly force being used when it is unwarranted," Santarsiero said.

To prove his point, Santarsiero noted that the bill would allow for the use of deadly force if someone were to simply walk onto another person's deck or patio without invitation, based on the 1973 Pennsylvania Superior Court decision, Wedlcraft Equipment Co. v. Crum and Foster Insurance. The court decision determined that "force" does not require that any particular degree of force be used, something Santarsiero said is troubling considering the bill would expand the definition of one's dwelling to include a deck or patio.

"When I asked the author of the bill about such a situation while in debate on the House floor today, he misstated Pennsylvania law on what 'forced entry' -- a trigger under the bill -- meant. State law defines forced entry as an act as simple as opening an unlocked door," Santarsiero said. "As a result, the simple act of walking onto an open deck or patio constitutes 'forced entry' under Pennsylvania law and could, therefore, trigger the use of deadly force under this bill. That's unacceptable," he explained.

Santarsiero noted that the only provision of the bill that he supported was a clause that would exempt those who lawfully defended themselves from an attacker from civil liability for the consequence of that defense. To address the issue, he stated that he will introduce a separate bill that provides for such a liability shield.

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