Senate skeptics sink ‘duty to retreat’ self defense law

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill meant to bolster self-defense law in Utah was defenseless against State Senators' desire to get through an end-of-the-legislative-session workload.

HB 259, sponsored by Lehi Republican Representative A Cory Maloy, would have made it illegal for prosecutors to argue that a person who uses deadly force in an act of self-defense should have taken the opportunity to run instead. Such an argument is called a "duty to retreat."

Maloy tried to convince the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee the bill was a clarification and not a change to the current statute on self-defense.

"I just want to make sure it's clear that this protects innocent people who are law abiding citizens who may end up in court because of self-defense actions," Maloy said.

But Senator Lyle Hillyard, a Republican from Logan, was skeptical.

"You say this is already the law and my immediate reaction is, 'If this is already the law then why are we tinkering with it?'" Hillyard asked.

Hillyard argued the bill might trivialize the decision to use deadly force.

"Carrying a gun is a great right, but it carries with it a responsibility," Hillyard said.