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Bill would prevent burgulars from suing homeowners

Febuary 26, 2007

By Andrew Pereira
You use force against a burglar entering your home only to find out months later that you’re the target of a civil lawsuit by the very criminal you stopped. It’s not a joke or a bad dream – it’s happening all across the country as criminals try to cash in on homeowners who defend their life and property with firearms or their bare hands.

State Senator Mike Gabbard, a republican who represents the communities of Waikele, Makakilo and Ko 'Olina says it’s time for Hawaii citizens to feel empowered when facing down would-be burglars.

Gabbard sponsored a bill which limits civil liability when a home or business owner uses physical force against a person who is convicted of committing certain crimes.

"Just imagine a person out there trying to protect his family and his home and then he tries to stop the perpetrator and then all of a sudden a while later he gets sued civilly,” said Gabbard. “It just doesn't make any sense.”

Gabbard’s bill (SB 1617) was the focus of public testimony Monday before the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee. Members of the Hawaii Rifle Association said they supported the measure but believe there should be restraint when confronting burglars.

“We don't think it's morally responsible to use lethal force on somebody who’s just stealing your stuff,” said Dr. Max Cooper, the Director & Legislative Affairs Co-Chairman of the HRA. “Some guy could walk out with my personal safe…and I don't think I want to shoot him,” Cooper told members of the committee.

In its current form the bill would take away a person’s right to sue if they are injured while committing a Class A or Class B felony, which would cover everything from murder to burglary.

East Honolulu resident Toshiaki Shimauchi supports giving homeowners added protection in self-defense cases. The retiree is aware of the fact that he lives in a community that has become an attractive target for thieves. According to the Honolulu Police Department East Honolulu reported 1,028 burglaries in 2005, the most of any of HPD’s eight districts.

“Whoever comes in without permission…I beat the hell out of him,” says Shimauchi. “That's wrong, that's his fault! He's asking for trouble in the first place.”

After public testimony Senate Bill 1617 passed the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee by a vote of five to zero. Committee Chairman, State Senator Clayton Hee (Kahuku-Ka'a'awa-Kane'ohe) indicated he would add an amendment to the measure in order to protect other people, not just homeowners from being the targets of lawsuits filed by criminals.

Senate Bill 1617

  Mike Gabbard - State Senate| P.O. Box 75480 Kapolei, Hawaii 96707
Phone: (808) 682-0676 | Fax:(808) 682-2591 | E-mail: mike@mikegabbard.com