Castle Doctrine

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Full Report

Executive Summary
Press Release

 

Draft City Club Report Recommends Oregon
Not Adopt the Castle Doctrine


Current law already protects property owners
who defend themselves against intruders.

(Portland, Ore.) The City Club of Portland today released a draft research report that recommends Oregon not adopt the Castle Doctrine. Although a Castle Doctrine petition this year did not turn in signatures to appear on the ballot, given national attention to this and similar laws, it could return to Oregon either on the ballot or in the Legislature. City Club therefore released this report to inform discussion about future Castle Doctrine efforts.

A committee of nine City Club member-volunteers spent four months studying the issue. Had it appeared on the ballot, the member-volunteer committee that studied it would have recommended a “No” vote.

As proposed, the Castle Doctrine would create a presumption that any force, including deadly force, used by a homeowner or resident to protect his or her property from an intruder is reasonable. It also would have guaranteed homeowners immunity from civil liability stemming from a trespasser who is injured.

“The proposed ballot measure to expand Oregon’s ‘Castle Doctrine’ is not needed to ensure property owners have the authority to defend their home,” The report states. “The law is poorly written, and would undermine the value of human life. It has the potential to encourage vigilante justice and unnecessary killing. These effects could fall more heavily on minority communities.”

Attorneys interviewed by the committee disagreed about how the proposal might affect prosecutions. In particular, it was unclear if the presumption of reasonableness for homeowners was rebuttable. This legal issue is one of the crucial points of the proposal, but the initiative's language did not clearly address it. Such ambiguities ill serve Oregonians considering a law that would allow one Oregonian to kill another in the absence of a proportional threat.

“Oregon statute and case law provide adequate protection to homeowners who defend themselves against an intruder. The castle doctrine would disrupt a system that already works,” Committee Chair Maria Thi Mai said.

The committee interviewed witnesses on both sides of the issue and reviewed relevant documents. The full draft report, which includes a witness list and citations, is available online at www.pdxcityclub.org/ballotmeasures-castledoc.

Member-volunteers who served on the committee were Maria Thi Mai (chair), Duncan Hwang (vice-chair), Jim Mayer (lead writer), Debra Brown, Annette Majekodunmi, Margaret Malarkey, Cezanne Miller, Dawn Sieracki, Dave Weber. Elizabeth Friedenwald served as the committee’s research adviser.

City Club members will debate and vote on this and nine other election-related recommendations at a “Ballot-Palooza” from 5:30pm to 9:00pm on Wednesday, August 20 at the Village Ballroom at the Oregon Public House (700 NE Dekum St.). The event will be open to the public, but only City Club members may vote on the recommendations. For more information on the event visit: http://bit.ly/BallotPalooza2014. Outcomes of the votes will be published on the City Club of Portland's website and reported in the City Club Bulletin, released August 26.

City Club member-volunteers have researched more than 400 state and local ballot measures since 1916. City Club’s Research Board screened all researcher applicants for conflicts of interest, and participants affirmed that they are unbiased on the ballot measure they sought to study.

City Club of Portland brings together civic-minded people to make Portland and Oregon better places to live, work and play for everyone. For more information about City Club of Portland, visit www.pdxcityclub.org or call 503-228-7231. Follow us on twitter @pdxcityclub and on facebook.

Committee Members

Member-volunteers who served on the committee were Maria Thi Mai (chair), Duncan Hwang (vice-chair), Jim Mayer (lead writer), Debra Brown, Annette Majekodunmi, Margaret Malarkey, Cezanne Miller, Dawn Sieracki, Dave Weber. Elizabeth Friedenwald served as the committee’s research adviser.