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Is legal change good or bad for domestic violence cases?

Florida is set to become the first state in the country to change the way criminal defense works when a “Stand Your Ground” law is invoked by a defendant.

Right now, if a defendant claims that he or she killed someone in self-defense, the burden rests on that defendant to make his or her case. That means that he or she has to provide convincing evidence to either the prosecutor or jury (if the prosecutor isn’t convinced) that the situation fell within the parameters of the law.

If the law is changed — and legal experts widely expect that it will be — the burden of proof will rest on the prosecution. The defendant will be presumed to be acting within the limits of the law when he or she kills someone and claims it was an act of self-defense. The state will have to prove otherwise if it wants a murder conviction of some sort.

This change has already sent chills through certain parts of the legal community. Florida already has one of the broadest “Stand Your Ground” laws in the nation. While many states allow someone the right to use deadly force rather than retreat when facing danger inside their own home, Florida has allowed people to invoke the privilege even outside their homes since 2005.

The new change could either be good or bad for victims of domestic violence, depending on who is discussing the issue.

On one hand, some legal experts believe that this shift in the law could allow a domestic batterer to make good on a violent threat, claim that he or she was acting in self-defense and walk into court entitled to that presumption of legal innocence before he or she can be charged with a crime.

Public defenders say that it could help those who were truly acting in self-defense and would otherwise be pushed into accepting a plea deal out of fear of an unfair conviction. That could include victims of domestic violence who finally respond to a batter’s violence with violence of their own.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer for now and time will have to be the ultimate judge of the law’s benefits.

Regardless of your situation, if you’re trying to leave a violent domestic situation or accused of domestic violence, talk to an attorney today instead of taking the law into your own hands.

Source: US NEWS, “Florida Could Pave New Changes in ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws,” Brendan Farrington, May 28, 2017