Being accused of or charged with a crime can be a traumatic experience with devastating long-term consequences for you and your loved ones. Regardless of whether you are charged with an OWI/DUI, a drug crime, or accused of sexual assault, you are considered innocent until proven guilty and afforded certain protections under the U.S. Constitution.
Continue reading to learn more about the presumption of innocence and how it may protect you if you are accused of or charged with a crime.
What Does ‘Innocent Until Proven’ Guilty Mean?
Innocent until proven guilty means that any person accused of a crime or any defendant in a criminal trial is assumed to be innocent until they have been proven guilty. It shifts the burden to the government to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Given the resources available to the government and the serious consequences of conviction, the accused or defendant does not have to prove their innocence.
Did you know? Innocent until proven guilty is also called the presumption of innocence. Both are used interchangeably and have the same meaning.
Where Does The Phrase ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’ Come From?
It is a common belief that the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” is written in the U.S. Constitution. That is incorrect — the phrase is not found anywhere in the Constitution. The concept comes from the Constitutional Due Process protections provided under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as other statutes and case law. Your right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental element of due process and our criminal justice system. It’s what differentiates our justice systems from others around the world who work under the principle of guilty until proven innocent.
Did you know? The concept of “presumed innocent until proven guilty” was first discussed in the case Coffin v. United States (1895).
What Is Due Process?
Due process consists of the protections that are afforded to every individual, which prohibits the government from depriving you of your freedom and property without going through the appropriate legal processes. The protections are divided into two types:
- Procedural due process: This requires the government to follow the defined legal process before depriving an individual of their life, liberty, or property interest, including giving you notice, the opportunity to be heard, and the opportunity for your case to be heard by a neutral judge. The presumption of innocence is considered a procedural due process
- Substantive due process: This refers to the rights individuals hold, such as freedom to privacy and freedom of speech, that the government cannot infringe upon without following the legal process.
These due process requirements are in place to ensure fairness, help avoid innocent people from being wrongly convicted, and to avoid subjecting people to cruel and unusual punishment.
Did you know? The actual term “due process” first appeared in the federal Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791.
What Does ‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’ Mean?
Beyond a reasonable doubt means that the prosecution must convince the jury of your guilt by showing that there is no other reasonable explanation that can come from the evidence presented at trial. The jury will be instructed by the judge that they can only find you guilty if they have been convinced by the prosecution that you committed the crime beyond all reasonable doubt.
It is a legal standard that the prosecution must meet in order to successfully find a criminal defendant guilty of a crime. The prosecution must prove you are guilty of every element of the crime by showing that the alleged crime was actually committed and that you are the person who actually committed the crime.
Did you Know? Many criminal law cases are won simply because the prosecution has not met its burden of proof to show that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
How Does Innocent Until Proven Guilty Protect Me?
In addition to requiring the government or prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the presumption of innocence provides several protections that fall under Constitutional Due Process, including:
- Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
- Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
- Sixth Amendment right to an attorney.
- Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial for felony offenses.
- Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive bail and the right.
- Fourteenth Amendment right to a fair trial.
- The right to not be unjustly detained.
I’ve Been Accused Of Or Charged With A Crime. What Should I Do Now?
Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney before you make any statement to the police or prosecutor. If you’ve already spoken to the police or prosecutor, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You have the right to have a lawyer present.
The criminal law process is a complex — and at times, time-consuming — process that can have life-altering consequences. The earlier you contact an attorney, the better. Your future depends on the knowledge, experience, and dedication of the defense attorney by your side.
How Can Alvarez Law Help Me?
Representing the people of Indiana and Chicago, Illinois, since 1974 and with two former U.S. Prosecutors on staff, our law firm has extensive knowledge and experience in handling a variety of criminal law cases including auto accidents caused by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OWI/DUI), felonies, drug crimes, and sex crimes. We understand your freedom is at risk and will use our vast knowledge of defense strategies to protect your rights and your future.
At Alvarez Law, every client, regardless of allegations or charges, enjoys the presumption of innocence that is the right of the accused. If you have been accused of, recently charged with a crime, or believe that your constitutional due process rights were violated, contact us online or call toll-free at 866-425-8273 for a free consultation. There is no upfront cost to discuss your criminal case with us. We also offer affordable payment plans.
With over 200 years of combined legal experience, it makes sense to go with Alvarez.