If a person is arrested and charged with a crime, does the defendant have to prove (s)he is innocent?
No. Under the law, a defendant ispresumed innocent until a judge or jury finds him or her guilty. The prosecution has to offer enough evidence to convince the judge or jury of your guilt. That is to say, the prosecution has the 'burden of proof.'
What does the prosecution have to prove to meet its 'burden of proof?'
Each element of the crime the client/defendant is charged with must be proven. Most crimes consist of two or more elements, and the prosecution must prove facts sufficient to satisfy each element of the crime charged. If the prosecution is unable to prove each element, the client/defendant should not be found guilty of that crime.
How strong does the prosecutor's case have to be?
The prosecution has to prove a defendant/client's guilt 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' Judges sometimes tell jurors that proof beyond a reasonable doubt means 'the jurors must be convinced of a defendant/client's guilt 'to a moral certainty' before they vote to convict the client of the crime charged. This reminds the jurors that convicting a defendant/client of a crime is very serious, and that any reasonable inferences of innocence must be overcome by the prosecution's evidence.
Is a client required to testify at his/her own trial to prove that (s)he is innocent?
No. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that a defendant/client cannot be compelled to be a witness against him/herself. This means neither the prosecution nor the judge can force the client/defendant to testify if the client/defendant chooses to remain silent.
If you are arrested or charged with a crime, contact
Christine McGuire, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara County Defense Attorney