ACLU of South Dakota Opposes Expansion to State’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law

March 3, 2021 5:00 pm

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Senate lawmakers will decide tomorrow whether to advance a bill that would put South Dakota communities at risk by expanding the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Prior to 2005, when “stand your ground” laws began to sweep the country, most states required an individual facing a threat to retreat before using deadly force. Now these laws — accounting for small state-by-state variations — allow individuals to use deadly force if the individual feels threatened without exploring other options, such as retreating to a safe location and evading the conflict all together.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1212, legislation that would lower South Dakota’s already extremely low standards when justifying the use of force.

“A good use of force standard is tied to a strong and well-defined necessity standard that would require lethal force to be used only when necessary after alternatives have been exhausted. House Bill 1212 does not have that,” said Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Instead, House Bill 1212 would expand the circumstances in which the state authorizes one person to kill another without any semblance of due process, raising serious civil liberties concerns.”

Additionally, House Bill 1212 has the potential to exacerbate an existing racial disparity in the success rate of justifiable homicide as a defense whereby a killing is more likely to be deemed “justifiable” if the victim is Black and the shooter is not than when the races of the victim and shooter are reversed.

House Bill 1212 will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The ACLU of South Dakota will testify in opposition.

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