The term “innocent until proven guilty” is probably something that you’ve heard before. What does this actually mean in terms of criminal justice and why is it so important?
There is a common misconception that anyone who has been arrested must have done something wrong. This is far from the truth. Many people plead not guilty to criminal offenses and go on to be found not guilty in court. In America, everyone has the right to a fair trial, and the presumption of innocence is at the heart of this.
The courts have a duty to be impartial during criminal trials until all the evidence has been heard and the case has reached its conclusion. For instance, the court should never tell the jury that they believe the accused is guilty before the trial has concluded.
You cannot be tried multiple times
Facing a criminal trial once is stressful enough, especially if you are innocent. Once all the evidence has been heard and the jury has come to their conclusion, then this is generally the end of the story.
If you are convicted of the crime, then you will face penalties (although you may have the right to appeal). At the same time, if you are found to be innocent, you are free to walk away. The prosecution cannot simply take another run at the case and charge you with the same crime because they did not agree with the outcome of the trial. This is commonly referred to as protection from double jeopardy.
If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Having legal guidance behind you will help ensure that your presumption of innocence remains intact.