SALT LAKE CITY — Using deadly force while intoxicated should not be prohibited if it is done in self defense, says a proposal under consideration by Utah lawmakers.
“If you’re defending yourself, but ... you’ve been drinking, it does not limit your ability or your right to choose how you defend yourself,” said Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo.
Thurston told the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee Nov. 14 the bill is needed to conform to case law that says states cannot restrict “this use even in this way.”
“It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s probably a constitutional violation for us to say that person who’s been drinking can’t pick up a weapon to defend themselves, or have to defend themselves with just their bare knuckles,” Thurston said.
The bill that made Utah’s blood alcohol limit for drivers the strictest in the nation, 0.05, was sponsored by Thurston.
Thurston this year was part of a committee that reviewed gun-related laws and found a few problems related to weapons and intoxication.
One is addressed in proposed legislation that would bar police officers from carrying firearms while intoxicated.
Under existing law, Thurston said, “it’s perfectly fine, (a police officer) can be as intoxicated as you want and still carry a dangerous weapon.”
“Talking to my county sheriff and others, it just doesn’t look good and we don’t want a public perception that we have police officers out there entitled to be kind of above the law just because they’re a police officer,” Thurston said.
A third proposal says a driver should not be found to be in illegal possession of dangerous weapons while intoxicated if the weapons are locked away or otherwise securely encased or not immediately accessible, Thurston said.
“Just to clarify, if dangerous weapons are securely encased, it is not ‘carry,’” he said.
“We’re taking this back from the courts.”
Another measure presented by Thurston would permit some gun possession by an intoxicated person at a home whose owner “is perfectly OK with what’s going on.”
He said the proposal would resolve the question, “If the police show up, does the law trump the decision of the private property owner?”
The interim committee recommended the proposals be addressed individually during the 2019 legislative session.