You've probably heard that in a criminal trial the burden of proof is on the prosecution. But what does that really mean?
It has to do with one of the fundamental elements of our legal system: the presumption of innocence. If you are tried for a crime in the United States, the prosecution is required to make their case for your guilt. Every witness they call, every piece of evidence that they introduce into the record is meant to convince the members of the jury that you have committed a crime and to convince the judge that you deserve to be punished as harshly as the law allows.
Legally, there is no burden on the defendant to prove anything. When your case goes to trial your attorney doesn't need to prove that you are innocent or present evidence to that effect and you don't have to take the stand in your own defense. Depending on the circumstances those things can help, but a criminal defense attorney's primary concern is to cast doubt on the prosecution's case.
That's what the standard of proof is at criminal trial, if a jury finds that they have reasonable doubt of your guilt, the judge will instruct them to find you not guilty of the charges against you.
This doesn't mean that defendants have it easy by any means. While ideally the judge and jury would be completely disinterested (that is to say, unbiased), in reality they are human and subject to the same prejudices as anyone else (bias against criminal defendants can be particularly strong in Orange County). The same goes for the prosecution, they are required to share exculpatory evidence with the defense, and ideally should be motivated by the desire to see that justice is done. Again they are human beings and subject to external pressure to win convictions, as well as to their own ambitions.
A Reasonable Doubt
I'd like to say a little more about the subject of doubt. Our court system, though imperfect, is designed to ensure the certainty of a verdict. In California, criminal cases require a unanimous verdict to produce a valid result, and jurors are required to find a defendant not guilty if they do not feel that their guilt has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
But what exactly is a reasonable doubt? It is impossible for anyone to know what exactly happened at the scene of a crime without being there themselves. Which is why at trial the prosecution will produce witnesses and evidence to convince the jury that you are the only person who could have committed the crime.
There are any number of factors that a skilled defense lawyer can use to introduce reasonable doubt into criminal proceedings. For example, the credibility of the prosecutions witnesses could be called into question. The defense could produce expert testimony to refute the state's interpretation of physical evidence. There can be inconsistencies in the prosecution's timeline of the crime. All of these factors and more can lead to an acquittal at trial.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You
Though there are examples of laymen who have successfully defended themselves at trial, the truth is that the majority of people who represent themselves at trial in Southern California are convicted. When you hire a criminal defense attorney, you gain the benefit of their years of training and experience. Not only that, but they can give you access to the resources necessary to dispute the prosecution's case against you.
I'm proud of the work I've done over the past 16 years to help ensure that people who are accused of a crime are able to defend themselves in Orange County's state and federal courts. The prosecution may be fighting hard to put my clients away, but I'm not afraid of a fight. I will always make sure that my clients' voices are heard, and ensure that their rights are protected. If you hire me I promise to do everything in my power to get the best outcome in your case.
If you need help fighting criminal charges in Southern California, contact the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti today for a free consultation with one of our experienced legal professionals.