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What does “innocent until proven guilty” mean?

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2021 | Criminal Defense

You’ve probably heard this before, but all criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty.

Do you actually know what this means, however? If you’re facing any kind of serious criminal charges, it’s an important concept to understand.

The presumption of innocence is absolute

Although many people misunderstand this fact, no criminal defendant ever goes to trial to prove their innocence. That’s not what a trial is about.

Instead, all defendants are automatically presumed to be innocent of the charges against them (even though it may not feel like it) until the prosecution is able to prove their case.

This is reflected even in the way that verdicts are read, since juries will declare defendants either “guilty” or “not guilty” of each charge against them. The verdicts (good or bad) may have lasting consequences for the defendant, but they are really a verdict on whether the prosecution has proved its case on each charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

A trial is solely about what the prosecution can prove

Since defendants are presumed to be innocent from the start, they are not required to prove anything at all to the court or the jury. That burden falls entirely upon the prosecution. Defendants are not even required to speak in their own defense — nor can their silence be taken as a sign of guilt by the jury.

That’s why many criminal defense attorneys will tell you that a trial isn’t about the actual facts of a case: Instead, it’s about what the prosecution can prove. This is why criminal defense attorneys often fight so hard over what evidence is admitted to the jury in the first place — because a case may be won or lost based on the outcome of those battles.

When you’re facing serious criminal charges, turn to a defense attorney who will aggressively defend your interests at every turn.