Boots & Sabers

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1432, 02 Mar 17

Florida Evaluates Burden of Proof in Self Defense Cases

Hmmmm… this is intriguing.

While at least 22 states have similar laws that say people can use force — even deadly force — to defend themselves from threats, Florida could soon be alone shifting the burden of proof to prosecutors.

Republican Sen. Rob Bradley says his bill “isn’t a novel concept.”

“We have a tradition in our criminal justice system that the burden of proof is with the government from the beginning of the case to the end,” he said.

Florida’s Supreme Court has ruled that the burden of proof is on defendants during self-defense immunity hearings. That’s the practice around the country. According to a legislative staff analysis of Bradley’s bill, only four states mention burden of proof in their “stand your ground” laws — Alabama, Colorado, Georgia and South Carolina — and all place the burden on defendants.

On the one hand, Bradley is correct. Our entire criminal legal structure is founded upon the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty by the government. The burden of proof is on the government to prove that someone broke the law. Why should it be any different in the case of self defense?

On the other hand, the government usually doesn’t have to prove intent. If I shoot someone, the government’s responsibility is to prove that I did it. Assuming that I did, then it would then be my responsibility to prove that the shooting was justified by self-defense. If the presumption if that every shooting is in self-defense unless the government proves otherwise, then it would be asking the government to enter the mind of the shooter to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – intent. That would seem impossible in many cases. Then again, right now it is impossible for the shooter to prove his or her intent either.

Tough call… in the end, I would lean on the side on placing the burden of proof on the government.


1432, 02 March 2017


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