When people find themselves facing serious criminal charges, they often think that the goal of going to court is to prove their own innocence. They want to show that the charges are false and prove that they did nothing wrong.
This mindset makes sense, as you’re thinking about the potential ramifications of the charges on your life and reputation, but it’s a slightly flawed way of looking at the situation. You do not have to prove your innocence. Instead, the prosecution has to prove your guilt.
The presumption of innocence is absolute
This legal theory is often referred to as the presumption of innocence, and it’s the basis behind the U.S. justice system. The court — and the jury — is supposed to assume that every defendant is innocent from the moment they walk through the doors. They can only change this mindset if the person’s guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
While these positions may seem similar, there are some major differences. For one thing, an accused person doesn’t actually have to say anything in their own defense. They’re already innocent. Without compelling evidence, they can just maintain their silence and wait for the court to say that they haven’t been proven guilty. That’s why verdicts are “guilty” or “not guilty,” instead of “guilty” or “innocent.”
It also means you don’t need direct proof that you did not do something. For instance, having a concrete alibi with photographic proof can help, but it’s not necessary. You may have no evidence in your favor at all. That won’t lead to a conviction. Only evidence of your guilt can do that.
What are your legal options when you’re facing charges?
If you are facing charges, it’s important to understand exactly how the system works and what legal options you have as you head to court. No matter what criminal charges you face, it’s wise to get a defense strategy in place as soon as possible.