North Dakota Bill to Alleviate “Punishment by Process” for Self Defense Passes House

Lady Justice

U.S.A. –( Ideally, the process of the judicial system would be free or cheap and painless. Unfortunately, it is expensive and painful, with long delays, expensive lawyer fees, and much uncertainty. The process of the judicial system has become a punishment in itself.

A bill which would help alleviate punishment by process in self defense cases in North Dakota, has passed the North Dakota House by 50 to 40 on January 20, 2023. The bill, HB 1213, would allow a judge to provide reinbursement of costs to people who are prosecuted by the State for self defense, and are then found not guilty. From

A rally of opposition by North Dakota’s state’s attorneys came too late for a House bill that would provide financial reimbursement to assault or murder defendants who are acquitted on self defense.

Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson, president of the North Dakota State’s Attorney’s Association, said the association will be working in the North Dakota Senate to defeat the bill, which passed the House 50-40 on Jan. 20.

The relevant text of the bill HB 1213, from

SECTION 1. A new section to chapter 12.1-05 of the North Dakota Century Code is created and enacted as follows:

Crime of violence – Self-defense – Reimbursement.

1.As used in this section, “crime of violence” means a violation of state law in which an individual causes death or physical bodily injury to another individual. The term includes assault and murder.

2.If an individual charged with a crime of violence is found not guilty due to the justification of self-defense, the court may order the state to reimburse the defendant for all reasonable costs incurred in defense, including loss of wages and time, attorney’s fees, and other expenses involved in the defense. The reimbursement is not an independent cause of action.

A similar bill was passed by the Washington State legislature in 1977, 45 years ago. The law was modified to add particulars in 1989 and a bit more in 1995, but the main substance remains the same.  From

(2) When a person charged with a crime listed in subsection (1) of this section is found not guilty by reason of self-defense, the state of Washington shall reimburse the defendant for all reasonable costs, including loss of time, legal fees incurred, and other expenses involved in his or her defense. This reimbursement is not an independent cause of action. To award these reasonable costs the trier of fact must find that the defendant’s claim of self-defense was sustained by a preponderance of the evidence. If the trier of fact makes a determination of self-defense, the judge shall determine the amount of the award.

The proposed North Dakota bill is weaker than the Washington State law. The Washington State law says the State of Washington “shall reimburse” the person who was found to be justified. The proposed North Dakota law only says the “court may order the state to reimburse” which leaves the reimbursement up to the judge’s discussion.

In our modern society, the process has become a significant punishment in itself. The law in Washington State, and the proposed bill HB 1213 in North Dakota, presents a partial cure for punishment by process.

This may be the start of a trend.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten