Bill Description: House Bill 674 would require that the relevant state or county office reimburse the legal expenses incurred by anyone who is prosecuted for homicide when a judge or jury determines that the person acted in self-defense and is therefore not guilty.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
House Bill 674 creates Section 19-202B, Idaho Code, to clarify and reiterate the presumption of innocence in cases where an individual claims his use of deadly force was for lawful self-defense.
It says, "A person who uses force as justified in section 18-4009, Idaho Code, or as otherwise permitted in sections 19-201 through 19-205, Idaho Code, is presumed to be exercising the fundamental right of self-defense and shall not be subjected to criminal prosecution for the use of such force except when the person knew or reasonably should have known that the person against whom the force was used was a law enforcement officer acting in the capacity of the officer's official duties."
It also says, "When a subject of investigation invokes the right to remain silent or have an attorney present for questions, that fact shall not be evidence of probable cause that the force used was unlawful."
Protecting the presumption of innocence is the most important duty of government in matters of criminal justice.
In subsection 3 of the new section created by House Bill 674, it says, "When a person charged with a crime is found not guilty by reason of self-defense, the defendant shall be conclusively presumed to have exercised the fundamental right of self-defense, and the county or prosecuting state agency where the person was charged with the crime shall reimburse the defendant for all reasonable costs, including loss of wages, salary, profits, and business opportunities, legal fees incurred, cost of any bonds posted, expert witness fees, and any other expenses involved in his defense."
The bill requires that when a jury determines a defendant who claims self-defense in a homicide case is not guilty, the jury shall also return a “special verdict” clarifiying if the not-guilty verdict is “based on the fact the defendant acted in self-defense.”
It is appropriate that counties and prosecuting state agencies reimburse people who were wrongly prosecuted for engaging in lawful self-defense.
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