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Published in the City Club of Portland Bulletin, Vol. 97, No. 4, August 13, 2014

In the Spring of 2014, petitioners began collecting signatures to place Initiative Petition 10 (IP 10) on the November 2014 Ballot. IP 10 has two parts. The first creates a presumption that any force, including deadly force, used by a resident to protect his or her property from an intruder is reasonable. The second part creates immunity from civil liability stemming from a trespasser who is injured.

As of July 2014, petitioners had failed to qualify for the ballot. In the interim your committee completed its review of IP 10, and submits the following report, with the hope that our work can inform City Club of Portland, as well as local, state and national communities, on future questions related to this issue.

Current Oregon law allows deadly force in defense of self, others or property only if the other person is using or about to use deadly force. The Oregon Supreme Court has said residents do not have a “duty to retreat” in their own home. All states, including Oregon, have a form of the Castle Doctrine, whether in statute or case law. In recent years, several states have expanded the doctrine, including so-called Stand Your Ground Laws, which extend the right to use deadly force to any place a person has the right to be.

Petitioners argued that the initiative is needed to clarify the law and protect homeowners from criminal and civil liability, but were unable to offer any examples of homeowners being unfairly prosecuted in Oregon. Attorneys who spoke to the committee worry that the change in the law would invite more homicides, and the available national data back up their claims. Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon stated that being killed is the most serious loss of liberty possible.

Your committee believes the initiative is unneeded to ensure residents have the right to protect their homes from intruders, up to and including deadly force. Oregon law requires that the use of such force be reasonable. The initiative would do away with that standard and tip the balance between property rights and the sanctity of human life, increasing the potential for unnecessary killings and deepening the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The civil liability provision goes too far and does not allow legitimate cases access to the courts.

Recommendation: The committee unanimously recommends a no vote.

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