WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that states can make it tougher for accused criminals to claim they were coerced into breaking the law.
Justices ruled 7-2 against a Texas woman who claimed her abusive boyfriend forced her to illegally buy him guns.
The court looked at a single issue — whether the burden should have been on Keshia Dixon to show she was under duress or on the government to disprove it.
In a victory for the Bush administration and prosecutors, the court said that criminal defendants must face that hurdle.
The ruling clears the way for states to change their laws. Justices had been told that 29 states require their prosecutors to disprove a coercion defense.
Dixon had claimed her abusive boyfriend hit her and held a gun to her head before taking her to get guns. Dixon claimed she was suffering from battered woman's syndrome and that her boyfriend took her to a gun show while his accomplices stayed home with her teenage daughters.
Because she was facing criminal charges in a check cashing scheme, it was illegal to buy guns.
The administration argued that a ruling for Dixon would help drug carriers and others avoid prison, claiming they were coerced.
Dixon provided an incorrect address and stated in the weapons paperwork that she was not facing criminal charges. She was sentenced to nearly three years in prison.
The case is Dixon v. United States, 05-7053.