Bill passes ND House, proposes repayment to those found not guilty of crimes by self defense

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 2:43 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Some legislators are hoping to add a new section of the North Dakota Century Code that would impact those who act in self-defense. Self-defense is sometimes used as a legal justification for a variety of crimes like domestic violence, kidnappings, and murders. The proposed law would allow repayment of defendants who are found not guilty because they acted in self-defense. Others aren’t sure it’s a good idea.

If enacted, House Bill 1213 would give the court the ability to order reimbursement for a defendant who’s justified in his or her actions by self-defense. That could include legal costs, loss of wages and time, and other expenses.

Proponents of the bill say the expense incurred during legal battles can be devastating. They want residents to feel comfortable defending themselves.

“It will be reassuring for North Dakotans that if they get taken to trial when it was self-defense, or they believe it was self-defense, and they get found not guilty, the court would have an option to remedy the situation,” said Rep. Nico Rios (R) Williston, sponsor.

He adds the bill could encourage prosecutors to more seriously consider self-defense arguments in each case.

While self-defense is brought up in many North Dakota cases, sponsors did not cite a specific instance as a reason for bringing this bill. That’s why some State’s Attorneys say the change is not necessary and could create a “chilling effect” in the courts. They say they’re concerned about the impact on their insurance and say it’s unclear who’s footing the bill.

“I’m concerned, obviously, about, you know, there being an unfunded mandate on the counties,” said Wade Enget, Mountrail County State’s Attorney.

The bill says the state could pay for reimbursements, while the fiscal note says counties could be responsible.

The bill passed the House 50 to 40. It’s now in the Senate.