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Proposition 114 would bar felons’ lawsuits against victims

Proposition 114 would bar felons’ lawsuits against victimsCrime victims shouldn’t have to worry that they may be sued by those who commit felonies against them, supporters of Proposition 114 argue.

“Who in the hell wants criminals to sue their victims?” said Charles Heller, a founder of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, which supports the measure.

Proposition 114 would shield crime victims from lawsuits by someone who is harmed while he or she commits a felony or flees after committing a felony. It would amend a section of the state Constitution that bars laws limiting the right to sue for death or injury.

A 1993 state law shielded defendants in lawsuits from liability if the person claiming harm in an accident or incident was attempting, committing or fleeing after committing a felony that made him or her at least 50 percent responsible.

But a 2006 Arizona Court of Appeals ruling nullified that because of the state Constitution’s ban on laws limiting the right to sue.

The case involved a security guard at a Tucson Safeway supermarket who subdued a man he accused of stealing moisturizer and who later died of asphyxiation, according to court documents. The man’s wife sued the guard, his employer and Safeway.

The parties eventually settled out of court.

“The court may have very well made the right decision based on the way the Constitution is written,” Heller said. “What we are doing now is correcting the Constitution through the legitimate legal process, correcting a deficiency that the court has pointed out.”

Heller said the ruling in the Tucson case creates an incentive for criminals to traumatize their victims a second time.

“This is going to ring the dinner bell for every criminal in the barnyard,” he said.

The Tucson case didn’t involve a felony, and Heller couldn’t point to any cases in which Proposition 114 would have applied.

Former state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who authored the legislation referred to the ballot in 2011, didn’t respond to a request for an interview.

State Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, voted against the legislation but said he expects Proposition 114 to pass overwhelmingly.

Gallego said he doesn’t want crime victims to be sued by those who commit felonies against them, but he considers the change unnecessary.

“There’s a reason we have our form of judicial system,” Gallego said. “You have to give some respect to the jury system and to our judges. They’re going to be able to determine most of the time whether someone deserves money or not.”

Meg Garvin, executive director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., said that when it comes to victims’ rights legislation the debate between those who say state laws are sufficient and those who want constitutional protection is common.

“The reality is that statutes are not as protective for victims,” Garvin said. “That’s true across the country.”


  1. Concerned Citizen

    And anyone can abuse “Victim’s Rights” for financial gain as well as having their legal fees paid, followed by big legal settlements. That’s the scam that needs to be exposed.

    The powerful Victims’ Rights groups have taken away the presumption of innocence and due process. “Guilty by media” and “media convictions” follow. Conviction done. Think Duke / Nifong.

  2. Concerned Citizen

    There needs to be legislation that punishes harshly those make false allegations. The “felon” who is wrongfully convicted should have a right to sue their “alleged” victim. There are no checks and balances. A false accuser facing nothing more than a misdemeanor. If they faced the sentence they want for the accused, these cases would dry up along with all the money making so many obscenely rich.

    Proposition 114 makes no sense and is fishy. Who’s trying to protect themselves? Let’s hear about the real life cases.

  3. I have read that Prop 114 “is a solution that has no problem to solve”. However…the point is that it could be a problem in the future. With lawyers coming up with new ways of twisting the rules so they can bring a case to court…why not make sure that a victim is not one of those that gets dragged into court because some lawyer had a “cute” idea and wanted to test it in court. Victims have enough issues trying to recover from a crime…let’s not have them possibly end up in civil court too. Think about it…if this proposition doesn’t pass…and later some victim is sued…there will be people that will scream “Why wasn’t something done ahead of time to prevent this tragedy!” I like the idea that something is being done in a proactive manner instead of closing the barn door after the horses have run away.

  4. Like most issues, this one is not black and white. Should a car thief who is injured during an accident while fleeing be able to sue the car owner because the car’s breaks were not maintained? Of course not. However, when a security guard kills a “moisturizer thief” while subduing him, then the security guard should be held accountable. No question. These are over-simplistic examples but the point is that in real life, they are not so simple and there should not be a proposition that treats all situations the same. Prop 114 seems like it will do just that. These issues must be treated case by case, with everyones rights held lawfully. Should a man, even one that wants a 100% discount on face cream, have no recourse when losing his life to an over-zealous rent-a-cop?

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