Guam Lawmakers Suspend ‘Castle Doctrine’ Discussions

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Concerns raised over ‘habitable property’ language in Bill 146

By Louella Losinio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Oct. 30, 2013) – Before Guam lawmakers voted to suspend discussion on Bill 146, otherwise known as the Castle Doctrine, clarifications on the vague provisions of the bill – such as the definition of "habitable property" – and concerns over its unintended consequences were raised during session.

Sen. Tom Ada presented the bill as amended, introducing it as a "simple bill that seeks to reinforce a simple concept – that is, people's homes are their castles and they have the right to defend themselves and their loved ones from criminal intruders without fear of reprisal."

He said an Internet search would turn up examples of victims of break-ins, who are prosecuted for shooting an intruder, or victims who had been sued by the perpetrator who got shot while invading a victim's home.

"Victims who use defensive force had to prove that they reasonably felt the need to do so ... the burden of proof must favor the victims but not the criminals," Ada said.

Concerns

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said he understands the need to feel safe and fully understands the concerns that people have about wanting to address the rise in criminal activity in this community.

However, he said, "I really do have my concerns and apprehensions that this legislation is the answer."

Cruz mentioned the obliqueness of some of the bill's language, including the definition of "habitable property."

As stated in the measure, "'habitable property' includes any such property whether or not a person is or actually present therein."

"I have concerns that this may have grave unintended consequences," Cruz said, "and I, in good conscience, cannot support it, though I understand the need for us to want to protect ourselves."

Sen. Ada also shared the Vice Speaker's apprehension, stating there needs to be clarification on what constitutes a habitable property and when does the provision of the bill kick in.

"At what point does this Castle Doctrine come into play? When I see the guy outside of my window starting to pry my window open, or when he has gotten in?" he said.

Right

Ada, in a release, said he is sponsoring Bill 146 because "all residents of Guam have the constitutional right to protect their homes and their families."

Bill No. 146 would allow the use of defensive force when there is reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm upon an occupant of a home or vehicle by an intruder.

The bill would also provide certain protections such as freedom from legal responsibility and prosecution for those who use such defensive force, typical of Castle Doctrine laws in other jurisdictions.

If Bill 146 becomes law, Guam will join 45 states that have adopted either the Castle Doctrine or "Stand Your Ground" laws.

The legislation is being co-sponsored by Sens. Brant McCreadie, Frank Aguon Jr. and Rory Respicio.

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