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Arizona Proposition 14 – the Crime Victims Protection Act of 2012

Arizona Proposition 14, if passed by voters will protect the victim from being the subject to a lawsuit if a person is injured or death results from felony conduct. The Proposition would amend the following sections of the Arizona Constitution:

  • Article II, section 31 regarding “Damages for death or personal injuries”;  and
  • Article XVIII, section 6, regarding “Recovery of damages for injuries”

Proposition 14, if passed will restrict the right of a person to sue another if the injury or death resulted from the person’s conduct involved a felony crime. It adds specific exceptions to the Arizona Constitution regarding a person’s rights to sue another. The exception is that a victim of a crime will not be subject to a claim for damages made by a person who is harmed while the person is attempting, engaging, fleeing, or having engaged in any felony offense

History and Current Arizona Law 

Basically, under current law, the right by a person to recover damages for personal injury or death is protected, and states that is right shall not only be abolished, or repealed; but it shall also not be subject to any statutory limitation or amount.

The proposition was prompted by an Arizona Court of Appeals decision in 2004 involving an Arizona incident at a Safeway story. In Frank Hernandez Jr. v. Sonoran Desert Investigations the suspect, Hernandez was found by a Medical Examiner’s report to have died  injuries sustained by a Security Guard, while the suspect was allegedly attempting to steal a bottle of lotion. The Appeals court ruled that the Arizona Constitution clearly spells out that the courts and juries had the sole power to determine in a civil lawsuit if the actions of victims themselves caused or resulted in injury or death, exposing them to liability. The court ruled that the Court’s decision in the matter voids or supersedes the law. In other words, currently a jury may, but does not have to find a victim, the defendant guilty. The case was settled out of court by the Security Company and victim’s widow.

Proponents

Supporters feel the law will protect victims from lawsuits and being victimized twice.  They feel the amendment will provide consistency in the law, closing loop holes such as those found in the Arizona Court of Appeal’s Hernandez case.  Proponents add that the proposed change not only stops a person from collecting while engaging in felony activity, but prohibits them from filing the claim in the first place.  They point out, that not only are the victims terrorized from the crime itself, but then they are forced to financially and defend themselves in court. The process of reliving events and being hauled into court by their perpetrator can be devastating, even if the victim eventually prevails.

Opponents

Although no organized opposition has presented itself, and it is subject to argument. Opponents feel the proposed amendment could lead to abuse by victims. One example given was in the case if an attempted burglary, where the suspect was scared off, shot in the back while trying to flee the scene of a failed robbery. Opponents feel that victims should not be entitled to civil immunity in cases where their actions that caused injury or death are unjustified, or unnecessary.