The Presumption of Innocence and Beyond Reasonable Doubt Explained
The Presumption of Innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a Reasonable Doubt are pillars of the justice system in the United States. In our legal system, it is the government/prosecutor that has the obligation to prove the guilt of a criminal defendant. But just as importantly, a defendant in a criminal prosecution does not have any burden whatsoever to prove innocence. The presumption of innocence requires the prosecution – U.S. Attorney or District Attorney, depending on the jurisdiction trying the case – to prove the charges against a the defendant “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”
Beyond a reasonable doubt is in fact the highest standard of proof that must be met in any criminal trial. There is a very practical reason for such a high standard: In a criminal proceeding, a defendant who is found guilty may be deprived of liberty or even of life.
Therefore, the prosecution has a high standard that must be met beyond a reasonable doubt by evidence introduced during criminal prosecution before a defendant can be judged guilty as charged. The evidence must show that there is no other logical explanation that can be derived from evidence, events or facts that could exclude the defendant as the one who committed the crime. The prosecution must overcome the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty by the legal evidence and testimony introduced in court.
In a criminal trial, jurors or judge must have no reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt or innocence before a verdict is reached. If the members of the jury, or the judge, are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt, then the verdict should be Guilty. On the other hand, if they are not convinced that the prosecutor has met the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt based on the prosecutor’s evidence, then the burden has not been met and the verdict must be Not Guilty.
In a criminal trial, a defendant does not have to present witnesses or testify during a trial unless he decides to do differently under advice of counsel. It is not the responsibility of the defense to convince the jury or the judge of the defendant’s innocence.
This burden of proof on the prosecution means that a good, experienced lawyer often has the opportunity to avoid conviction of a defendant by wisely attacking the prosecution’s evidence, presenting evidence that the defendant was in fact somewhere else at the time the crime was committed, or by presenting evidence that undermines the prosecution’s case.
Furthermore, the defense has the opportunity to challenge prosecutorial evidence such as eyewitness identifications, or any other evidence presented by the prosecutors.
Finally, a good defense attorney will meet the responsibility head on and challenge prosecutorial experts and police testimony. A defense attorney must also present argument that the prosecutor has not met the burden of proof; therefore, the jury should his client turn an acquittal.
Remember, the information provided herein is not intended as legal advice; instead we seek to provide you with a general idea of what can happen during the legal process.
Always seek competent legal advice. Attorney Martin E. Regan, Jr. is an experienced, skillful attorney who, in 2013 won the acquittal of five defendants accused of murder as well as the freedom of many others.
Knowledge, experience and skill matters. At The Law Firm of Regan & Sandhu, P.L.C., our primary interest is to provide you, our client, with excellent representation.