Am I Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

The criminal legal process can feel overwhelming. You may feel like everyone is against you while you try to explain your side of the story.

While you may have heard the term “innocent until proven guilty,” the court process can feel like the opposite. Feeling like you need to prove your innocence can seem like an impossible task.

Although you may feel guilty until proven innocent, the United States court system does not have that standard. Here’s what you should know about facing the criminal justice system and how they attempt to demonstrate guilt.

A cloak of innocence

When you walk into the courtroom, you can think of your innocence like a cloak. The prosecution is trying to remove the cloak by offering evidence that suggests guilt.

On the other side, your defense attorney is trying to help you keep your cloak by raising doubt about the evidence that the prosecution offers.

Raising doubt vs. Proving innocence

While they may seem similar, raising doubt and proving innocence are two different things when it comes to the legal system. For example, raising doubt may mean asking a witness questions such as:

  • How well could you see the incident?
  • Was your vision obscured?
  • Could you distinguish between the people involved?

Questions like these are meant to raise reasonable doubt in the people on the jury.

Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt

When the jury receives instructions, they learn the elements of the alleged crime and what it would take to meet all of the elements. Then, they are told to weigh the evidence to determine if it reaches the point of “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” Essentially, they are supposed to decide if there was too much doubt in the prosecution’s evidence to respond with a guilty verdict.

Going through the criminal court process can feel like you are fighting an uphill battle. It is essential to have the support of a skilled professional to help you with your defense.