West Virginia legislators violated state and national constitutions when they forced fathers facing felony child support charges to prove they couldn't pay, the Supreme Court of Appeals decided May 23.The poor dad should not have had to appeal to the state supreme court to get such an obvious statement of the law.
The Justices unanimously erased a law stating that in child support prosecutions "the defendant's alleged inability to reasonably provide the required support may be raised only as an affirmative defense, after reasonable notice to the State."
The law "unconstitutionally shifts to a defendant the burden of disproving an element of the offense," Justice Robin Davis wrote. "We have previously observed that it is a foundation of criminal law that the State must prove all the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt."
The law violates due process under Article III of the West Virginia Constitution and the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, she wrote.
The Justices granted a new trial to Gabriel Stamm in Harrison County after Circuit Judge James Matish sentenced him to prison for a year to three years.
Friday, June 06, 2008
W.Va, court says dads are innocent until proven guilty
From a WV newspaper: