November 29, 2010

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association President Edward M Marsico, Jr. (District Attorney, Dauphin County) today issued the following statement in support of Governor Edward G. Rendell’s veto of H.B. 1926, often referred to as the “Castle Doctrine expansion bill:

“Pennsylvania needs a law that supports law-abiding citizens who act in self-defense, not one that gives thugs a new line of defense to escape the law.  The governor was right to veto this legislation.

“As district attorneys, we support the right of citizens to defend themselves.  We support the protection of civil liberties and Second Amendment rights.  What we don’t support is the shoot first, ask questions later environment this bill would have created in Pennsylvania.

“Unfortunately, the debate over this bill glossed over the fact that Pennsylvania already has a strong Castle Doctrine.  Citizens already possess the right to defend themselves in their homes.  It is rare to find a case where someone who was legitimately defending themselves ended up being prosecuted.  It is harder still to find a case like that in Pennsylvania.  On the other hand, our colleagues in states like Florida and Ohio, where similar legislation has passed, have already reported that criminals are successfully exploiting their new law, making bogus self-defense claims that allow them to escape punishment while leaving victims without recourse.  That is why we have said all along that this bill, in its current form, is a solution in search of problem.

“The other problem with H.B. 1926 is that it unnecessarily bundled the Castle Doctrine expansion provisions with some very simple, but important and necessary fixes to Megan’s Law.  Now, those much-needed fixes will have to wait until the new legislature convenes in January.  We hope that the House and Senate will work to make these changes as soon as possible during the new legislative session.

“Pennsylvania’s district attorneys are committed to working with the legislature and the new governor to ensure that any legislation regarding the Castle Doctrine, Megan’s Law, or any other criminal justice issue, reflects both our state’s needs and its values.”

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is comprised of approximately 1,000 members and is charged with providing uniformity and efficiency in the discharge of duties and functions of Pennsylvania’s 67 District Attorneys and their assistants.  Since its founding in 1912, the Association has dutifully sponsored extensive training programs and reported legal and legislative developments of importance to Pennsylvania prosecutors.  In addition, the Association is often called upon by legislative leaders at the state and national level to address public policy issues and efforts which will impact the prosecution of criminal cases, victim rights and public safety.