Criminal Blog Week Day 1–Sharia Criminal Law

Being criminal defense attorneys in Bartow, we often represent clients who are originally from other countries or cultures.  These clients not only have questions about their case, but also about our system of criminal justice.  For example, when someone comes from a country where marijuana is legal, they do not understand why they are subjected to criminal punishment here for possession of the same drug.

Our firm recently gave a lecture on Sharia law and its impact on American jurisprudence.  As part of that presentation, we talked about how Sharia criminal law is different from American criminal law.  Perhaps these two systems are most different in their criminal punishment methods.  Regarding criminal punishment, Sharia is noted for its draconian executions, including its use of stoning, lashing and flogging.  Sharia scholars are quick to point out that these are not the only forms of punishment used by their courts, but are the ones most debated in the West as their methods are most contrary to our Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Besides our methods of punishment, there are many differences between Sharia criminal court and American criminal court.  Here are just a few such differences:

In Sharia court, trials are conducted by the judge; there is no jury system.  There is no pre-trial discovery process, and no cross-examination of witnesses.  Rules of evidence are also vastly different, with Sharia giving priority to oral testimony over written documents/evidence.  On most charges, testimony must be established by two witnesses, preferably male witnesses.  (One exception is rape, which must be established by four eyewitnesses.)  A woman’s testimony is worth only 1/4-1/2 to that of a male.

Forensic evidence is rejected in many cases in Sharia courts, including fingerprints, ballistics, DNA and blood samples.

These rules can make it extremely difficult for women victims in all cases, but especially rape charges.

At the cost of sacrificing due process, Sharia courts significantly increase speed and efficiency of dockets.  But this is a price American criminal courts are unwilling to pay.


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