Burden of Defense

Burden of Defense

Recent opinion by the Supreme Court this week.

Smith v. United States (9-0, Opinion by Justice Scalia, on January 9, 2013) 

Summary: Justice Scalia, delivering the unanimous opinion of the Court, affirmed the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Court held that a defendant bears the burden of proving a defense of withdrawal. The Court explained that unless an affirmative defense negates an element of the crime, the Government has no constitutional duty to overcome the defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, although union of withdrawal with a statute-of-limitations defense can free the defendant of criminal liability, it does not place upon the prosecution a constitutional responsibility to prove that he did not withdraw.

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