Consult With a Criminal Defense Lawyer Because You’re Innocent Unless Proven Guilty

anthony-garand-7rehTDIfR8o-unsplash-300x200The internet blew up when video footage exploded in everyone’s news feeds of Sean Combs assaulting Cassie Ventura. Expectedly, responses followed. Most decried and denounced Combs’s behavior while others showed support by iterating that he should be considered “innocent until proven guilty.” And that’s just not true. While no one disagrees over the morality of what’s displayed on the video, the distinction between “innocent until proven guilty” and “innocent unless proven guilty” opens up a conversation. The presumption of innocence requires that the prosecution prove that the accused is guilty. The presumption should not be that the prosecution will prove that the accused is guilty. If you’re charged with a crime, an experienced criminal defense lawyer will make clear that you’re innocent unless proven guilty. Let’s get into it.

You cannot discuss the presumption of innocence without talking about the burden of proof.  In criminal cases the State carries the burden of proof and must prove each element of an offense “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The term and concept of burden of proof stem from the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment earned its claim to fame with its catch phrase, “I plead the fifth.” It carves out safeguards and processes in the legal system. It defines and delineates due process in the law,  which is the backbone of the criminal justice system. This mechanism requires that the prosecution prove that the accused is guilty. In summary, the Fifth Amendment states:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The Fifth Amendment separates the United States of America from more mercurial countries that scorn the accused and run over their personal freedoms and rights. If it were just assumed that the accused is guilty or will be found guilty, we would be no different than countries without due process of law. Look closely at the portion that reads, “Nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property.” Therein lies the seriousness of being charged with a crime. A conviction could result in the deprivation of one’s life, liberty, or property. That’s why guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. You could be sentenced and serve time in jail which takes you away from your home, your kids, your family. You could be sentenced and lose your job, car and house due to the financial and time constraints of your punishment. Why should you assume that you would be convicted? A good lawyer will work hard to remind the prosecutor and jury that the facts aren’t their opinions, the facts are what can and cannot be proven. Facts are supported by evidence. Sean Combs has already been convicted by the court of public opinion. But at this time, he’s not been formally charged with assault. If charges arose though, evidence of facts would still need to be considered.

The State’s ability to convince a jury of the accused’s guilt beyond  reasonable doubt hinges on the presentation of evidence. Many different types of evidence come into play in a criminal case. Continuing with the example of Sean Combs, the prosecutor would likely use the hotel video against him in trial. That video would shock and horrify a jury as it did most who have already viewed it. Video evidence feels pretty damning. Even William Shakespeare said, “Be sure of it; give me the ocular proof.” Surely, this would be “ocular proof”, right? As a past English major and lover of Shakespeare, it pains me to disagree. Ocular proof does not always cut it these days. I’m not arguing that it’s not Sean Combs on that video. I am saying, with the advent of AI, video evidence does not always pass the tests of verifiability. We’ve entered strange times where we no longer fear a Photoshopped face on an embarrassing body. Greater fears exist. Technology today can take a picture and create an entire dance video based on an effect. Users create videos like these daily on TikTok. Most of the time they occur in light hearted fun, but make no mistake, AI is just as frequently used with ill intent. There are assertions that AI technology has been used to call 911 using someone else’s voice in other cases. Photoshop has been used to falsify documents. On a more human level, fallibility presents in even eyewitness testimony. Confessions even turn up with suppression issues. This means that not all evidence eliminates reasonable doubt, which is the burden of proof in criminal prosecutions. That’s a high burden and should be hard to meet.

The burden should be high when someone’s life, liberty and property are affected. No one should lose their freedom under capricious and rash proceedings. When hearing that someone has been accused of a crime, I encourage you too to consider that they’re innocent unless proven guilty. Not just because that is their right, but you too would want the same consideration. If you’re someone charged with a crime, schedule a free consultation with this Conroe criminal defense lawyer. We can discuss what can and can’t be proven and potential evidentiary issues in your case.

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