INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Changes could soon be coming to Indiana’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The proposal, House Bill 1284, would expand protections for someone who uses deadly force to stop a crime, but it’s also creating controversy.
People who favor this bill say it’s needed to protect law-abiding citizens who use force to keep themselves or others safe. But opponents say if that bill passes as it stands now, it’s a clear path to vigilante justice.
“I couldn’t just stand there and watch a police officer murdered in front of my eyes when I had the ability to help that day, and so I helped,” said Kystie Phillips during her testimony on Monday in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
In 2017, Phillips shot and killed a man who was attacking a police officer during a traffic stop outside her home in Rising Sun, Indiana. Prosecutors said she acted lawfully, but she’s now being sued by that suspect’s family.
“I worry about if I’ll be able to take care of my daughters,” said Phillips. “I worry about how long and how expensive this is going to be.”
State Representative Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) says his bill, HB 1284, would keep people like Phillips from being sued after using justifiable force. Right now, state law protects someone from criminal penalties, but not civil.
“Basically, in a nutshell, we’re just taking existing Indiana law and expanding on it a little bit,” said Lucas.
The law would also move the burden of proof to the plaintiff, who would have to convince a judge why the person who used force against them did so unlawfully.
But, opponents say the bill is too broad.
“The bottom line is that House Bill 1284 encourages folks to shoot others without a de-escalation process,” said Alexa Griffith, speaking on behalf of Moms Demand Action. That group advocates for stricter gun control measures across the country.
Indiana University law professor Dr. Jody Lynee Madeira testified against House Bill 1284, although she agrees that people who use justifiable force shouldn’t face civil penalties. However, she said the bill needs more focus on specific types of felonies.
“The bill, as it stands now, references ‘a felony,’” said Madeira, “and I think we want to make sure that we know this only applies to the commission of forcible felonies…that carry a risk of serious bodily harm.”
Lucas disagrees with some opponents’ belief the bill would lead to a “wild west” mentality in Indiana.
“Facts just prove them wrong,” said Lucas, “as you heard in there, the only thing we want to do is just protect the victim and not force them to go bankrupt defending themselves in a justified use of force.”
At the end of Monday’s hearing, the committee decided to table the bill and bring it up for discussion at a future date. You can review the full bill as it currently stands here.