Bill passes ND House, offers restitution to people not guilty of crimes in self-defense

BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) – Some lawmakers are hoping to add a new section to North Dakota’s Century Code that would affect those who act in self-defense. Self-defense is sometimes used as a legal argument for various crimes, such as domestic violence, kidnapping, and murder. The proposed law would allow extradition for defendants found not guilty because they acted in self-defense. Others aren’t sure it’s a good idea.

If passed, House Bill 1213 would allow a court to order restitution for a defendant who acted in self-defense. This can include legal fees, lost wages and time, and other costs.

Proponents of the plan say the costs incurred in court battles can be devastating. They want residents to feel comfortable.

“It will be reassuring to North Dakotans that if they are prosecuted when it was self-defense, or they believe it was self-defense, and they are found not guilty, the court has an opportunity to remedy the situation.” said Rep. Nico Rios (R) of Williston, the sponsor.

He adds that the bill could encourage prosecutors to consider self-defense evidence more seriously on a case-by-case basis.

Although the self-defense defense is raised in many North Dakota cases, the sponsors did not cite a specific example as a reason to propose the law. That’s why some state attorneys say the change isn’t necessary and could create a “chilling effect” on the courts. They say they are concerned about the impact on their insurance and say it is unclear who is supporting the bill.

“I’m obviously concerned that, as you know, there is an unfunded mandate in the county,” said Mountrail State’s Attorney Wade Engett.

The bill says the state can pay the compensation, while the fiscal note says counties can be responsible.

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

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