Arizona Senate bill authorizes lethal force for property damage

PHOENIX (AP) — A bill sponsored by a Republican state senator, to be voted on Monday, would allow business owners or their employees to use deadly force to defend their property from smash-and-grab thieves if the thief possessed a dangerous weapon. But critics of Scottsdale Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita’s proposal say the legislation is drafted so broadly that it would allow someone to shoot and kill someone simply for scribbling graffiti on them. a wall while having something that could be considered a weapon.

Ugenti-Rita acknowledged at a committee hearing that this was possible, but pointed to the limitations of his proposal that the person must possess a “deadly instrument” at the time they “knowingly” damage or deface someone’s property. another. “Unfortunately, we are only too familiar with the looting and armed robbery that took place across the country as a result, and resulted in violence and property damage,” Ugenti-Rita told a hearing. of the committee last month. “I think we need to strengthen our laws so that business owners have a legal justification for using physical or deadly force when defending their property.”

She said the reality is that businesses are the livelihoods of business owners and their employees and they should be able to defend them however they can for their own homes, although she said that killing someone to stop the crime should be a last resort.

But Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and KM Bell of the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona worried that the shield given to a homeowner who uses lethal force might be too broad. And they noted that this applies to any property, not just a business that is stolen.

“It would in effect allow members of the public to impose the death penalty for spraying graffiti,” Bell told the panel.

The Senate moved the measure forward in a floor debate Thursday without comment, and it is expected to be voted on Monday afternoon.

Arizona already allows the use of deadly force to stop many crimes, including residential burglaries, rape, kidnapping, arson and manslaughter. But Ugenti-Rita’s proposal allows for the use of force to prevent criminal property damage, including amounts so small they would only result in a four-month prison sentence.

Dana Allmond, a retired army officer and mother of four who lives in Marana, told the committee she feared the proposal would encourage people to be ‘vigilantes’ and lead to death. useless. She said the bill creates an unfair and unfair reason to use lethal force for minor offenses like defacing property with graffiti.

“I feel like we may be encouraging those who are intent on ending our lives and the lives of our precious loved ones,” Allmond said. “And I can’t sleep at night worrying about my kids.”

In an interview Friday, Ugenti-Rita said concerns about the law were misplaced. She said the law’s origins included the May 2020 riot at Scottsdale Fashion Square where hundreds of people looted stores after the death of George Floyd and a series of armed robberies in California and across the country. where gangs of people descended on retail. stories.

The most recent happened Sunday in Roseville, Calif., when a gang of 10 men stormed a jewelry store and used sledgehammers to smash windows and seize merchandise. The men escaped.

“You have to focus on the fact that you have to have a gun,” Ugenti-Rita said. “And I don’t know if the victim in this situation would classify it as a minor offense when their property is vandalized by someone with a dangerous weapon.”

“You should be able to defend your business like you defend your home,” she said.

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