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The Justice System: Self-Defense Laws Under Attack

In The Justice System, Self-Defense Laws are Under Attack.

Since the beginning of the George Zimmerman trial, legal scholars across the nation have debated the pros and cons of stand your ground laws. Politicians across the nation have begun questioning whether such laws should exist. Stand your ground laws generally provide that if a person is legal authorized to use deadly force against another person, meaning the use of force is justified, the would-be victim is not required to retreat. In other words, the person may stand their ground.

Consistent with the fact that the government must prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that an accused need not prove anything since the Constitution guarantees a presumption of innocence, many stand your ground laws require prosecutors to prove that the would-be victim they have now charged did not act in self-defense.

Many critics argue that the laws make it difficult for prosecutors to prove that a criminal defendant did not act in self‐defense. For example, Michigan's stand your ground law states:

[a]n individual who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses deadly force may use deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if . . . [t]he individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault of himself or herself or another individual.

Thus, a criminal defendant could argue that deadly force was necessary (because he or she felt threatened) in a situation where the deceased was the only other witness to the events. The difficulty of proving or disproving a claim of self‐defense was made particularly apparent in the George Zimmerman trial.  Zimmerman, who was charged with 2nd degree murder (and lesser included charge of manslaughter) claimed that he shot and killed 17 year‐old Trayvon Martin in self‐defense after Martin slammed his head against the cement multiple times. However, his injuries have been described as "insignificant" and "minor" by the prosecution's medical examiner.  The ultimate decision was left to the jury which decided the prosecution failed to prove that Zimmerman did not act in self‐defense.

Because of the complexity of cases in the justice system involving self‐defense claims, if you or a loved one has been arrested and currently faces charges involving assault, or the use of, or threatened use of deadly force it is vital that you contact an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney today, regardless of whether you are in Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Monroe, Ann Arbor, or anywhere else in Michigan.

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