‘Castle Doctrine’ Is Closer to Becoming Law
By Mechelle Hankerson
Capital News Service
Richmond, Va. – Citizens looking for more personal protection can rest easy after two bills that would allow the use of deadly force in one’s home moved forward this week in the General Assembly.
Staunton Delegate Robert “Dickie” Bell’s House Bill 48, better known as the “Castle Doctrine,” won an endorsement Friday from the House Courts of Justice Committee. The vote was 12-6. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
The Castle Doctrine, which is law in 31 states, states that people can use physical or deadly force against intruders in their home if they believe the intruder could hurt them or if an intruder commits an overt act against them.
Bell, a Republican, said the original draft of HB 48 was identical to Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Sen. Richard Stuart, (R-Montross, Prince William, Stafford). The Senate passed Stuart’s bill, 23-17, on Thursday.
The House bill was amended in subcommittee last week to add the word “serious” to the threat of bodily injury that people must believe they face before deadly force is justified.
With the amendments, the chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee, Delegate Dave Albo (R-Springfield), was still hesitant to move forward with the bill.
Bell introduced the bill as a codification of what is already common law in Virginia. But Albo said that without the word “reasonable,” it is not an accurate representation of common law.
“Common law says the response has to be proportional,” Albo said at the committee meeting. Adoption of HB 48 would be “taking ‘reasonable response’ out of the law.”
No citizens or groups came to speak in favor of or in opposition to the bill. But Delegate Robert Bell (R-Charlottesville), a member of the committee, voiced support for HB 48.
“Common law doesn’t provide enough protection in their own home,” he said. “The goal of this bill is to say there are certain things to do within your home to protect yourself.”