In American jurisprudence, the difference with the U.S. compared to many other countries is the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” This principle puts the burden of proof in a criminal case on the prosecution to prove that a defendant is guilty, rather than the burden on a defendant to prove he is innocent.
When it comes to homicides, self-defense has often been a common claim for defendants. In many states, there are what are called “stand your ground” or “castle doctrine” laws, where self-defense can be used as a valid claim against a murder charge in situations where a person feels under imminent threat to his life or is protecting his property from a burglary or robbery.
However, there has been a belief that “stand your ground” actually goes against the American jurisprudence principle, as the defendant is left with the burden to prove that his self-defense claim is valid. However, the Florida legislature has recently taken a step to reverse that principle by passing a bill that would require the prosecution to prove that self-defense cannot be used as a valid defense in a murder trial.
Those who support the bill say that this re-establishes burden of proof with the prosecution as it should be while confirming due process rights, while opponents say that putting this burden on prosecutors makes it more difficult to prosecute murder cases because of the increased difficulty for prosecutors to disprove self-defense than it is for defendants to prove it.
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a known member of the National Rifle Association, is being pressured by both sides to either sign or veto the bill. The NRA has taken a position in support of the bill to favor gun owners, while opponents want Scott to veto the bill in support of homicide victims and their families.
There are good cases to be made on either side of this issue, and some legal analysts believe that if this bill gets signed in Florida, it could set the table for similar bills to be introduced in other states, especially those in which “stand your ground’ laws are in place.
You have a right to defend yourself, both in terms of protecting your life from threat, but also defending yourself in legal proceedings. In criminal defense law, you have a right to proper legal representation to stand up for your rights to due process and to a fair trial. Whether your state allows you to stand your ground or not, having a quality criminal defense attorney to stand up for you in a court case can be a valuable ally in protecting your rights.