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Lawsuit immunity for crime victims passed by voters

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Proposition 114

Lawsuit immunity for crime victims passed by voters

PHOENIX – Voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure aimed at protecting crime victims from being sued by someone harmed while committing or fleeing from the scene of a felony.

Unofficial returns showed Proposition 114 leading by a wide margin.

The measure amends a section of the state Constitution that bans laws limiting the right to sue for death or injury.

A 1993 state law protected defendants in lawsuits from liability if the person claiming harm was involved in a felony in which they were at least 50 percent responsible. But a 2006 Arizona Court of Appeals ruling repealed that law because of the state Constitution’s ban on laws limiting the right to sue.

The Arizona Citizens Defense League, a nonprofit advocating gun rights and civil liberties, is the only organization officially backing the measure.

Charles Heller, founder of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, said he's satisfied that the group’s hard work paid off, though he said he wasn’t surprised by the result.

"Arizona is a bellwether when it comes to freedom," Heller said. "Things that happen here usually get duplicated in other states."

Although there were no official opponents, the Arizona Democratic Party recommended voting against the measure, arguing that while crime victims shouldn't be sued by those who commit felonies against them, there are already existing laws shielding victims from lawsuits.

"I don’t think it was necessary," said Frank Camacho, a spokesman for the party. "But folks have let their feelings be known, and we accept that."

There are no known cases in Arizona where Proposition 114 would have applied.

The ballot proposition stemmed from a misdemeanor case involving a security guard at a Tucson Safeway supermarket who subdued a man he accused of stealing moisturizer and who later died of asphyxiation. The man’s wife sued the guard, his employer and Safeway.

The case was eventually settled out of court.

No groups registered with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office as spending money in support or opposition to the measure.

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