Presumption of Innocence Laws

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Presumption of Innocence Laws

When an individual is accused of a crime, they can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to criminal charges in court. When the defendant pleads not guilty and the case proceeds to trial, the court makes a presumption that the defendant is innocent.

What Is Presumption of Innocence?

“Presumption of innocence” is a legal principle that assumes a defendant is innocent of the charges they are facing. Every defendant charged with a criminal act is presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise.

Is Beyond a Reasonable Doubt the Same as Presumption of Innocence?

No, although they are connected to one another. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard that a prosecutor must meet in order to overcome the presumption of innocence. The law requires prosecutors to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. This means the burden of proof falls on the government to prove there is no doubt the defendant is guilty of the crime. The state will use evidence at trial, such as:

Is the Eighth Amendment Connected to the Presumption of Innocence?

Yes. The presumption of innocence provides support for the Eighth Amendment requirement of permitting a defendant to be released from jail prior to trial in exchange for a reasonable bail or a promise to show up in court. For example, the defendant may get out of jail after posting a bail amount or by promising to show up in court. The promise to show up in court is called being released on the defendant’s own recognizance.

However, the state is allowed to require a defendant remain in jail without the option of bail for specific reasons. For instance, the defendant may be a flight risk, charged with a serious crime, or a danger to the public.

Do I Need to Talk to a Lawyer about the Presumption of Innocence?

Yes. If you are accused of committing a crime, talk to a criminal lawyer about possible pleas, the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof. Your lawyer will answer your questions and prepare your case for trial.

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Last Modified: 09-08-2015 12:07 PM PDT

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