Media Contact

Janna Farley,

March 3, 2021

Senate lawmakers will decide tomorrow whether to advance a bill that would put South Dakota communities at risk by expanding the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Prior to 2005, when “stand your ground” laws began to sweep the country, most states required an individual facing a threat to retreat before using deadly force. Now these laws — accounting for small state-by-state variations — allow individuals to use deadly force if the individual feels threatened without exploring other options, such as retreating to a safe location and evading the conflict all together.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1212, legislation that would lower South Dakota’s already extremely low standards when justifying the use of force.

“A good use of force standard is tied to a strong and well-defined necessity standard that would require lethal force to be used only when necessary after alternatives have been exhausted. House Bill 1212 does not have that,” said Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Instead, House Bill 1212 would expand the circumstances in which the state authorizes one person to kill another without any semblance of due process, raising serious civil liberties concerns.”

Additionally, House Bill 1212 has the potential to exacerbate an existing racial disparity in the success rate of justifiable homicide as a defense whereby a killing is more likely to be deemed “justifiable” if the victim is Black and the shooter is not than when the races of the victim and shooter are reversed.

House Bill 1212 will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The ACLU of South Dakota will testify in opposition.

About the ACLU of South Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.