presumption of innocence


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Presumption of Innocence

A principle that requires the government to prove the guilt of a criminal defendant and relieves the defendant of any burden to prove his or her innocence.

The presumption of innocence, an ancient tenet of Criminal Law, is actually a misnomer. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the presumption of the innocence of a criminal defendant is best described as an assumption of innocence that is indulged in the absence of contrary evidence (Taylor v. Kentucky, 436 U.S. 478, 98 S. Ct. 1930, 56 L. Ed. 2d 468 [1978]). It is not considered evidence of the defendant's innocence, and it does not require that a mandatory inference favorable to the defendant be drawn from any facts in evidence.

In practice the presumption of innocence is animated by the requirement that the government prove the charges against the defendant Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. This due process requirement, a fundamental tenet of criminal law, is contained in statutes and judicial opinions. The requirement that a person suspected of a crime be presumed innocent also is mandated in statutes and court opinions. The two principles go together, but they can be separated.

The Supreme Court has ruled that, under some circumstances, a court should issue jury instructions on the presumption of innocence in addition to instructions on the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt (Taylor v. Kentucky). A presumption of innocence instruction may be required if the jury is in danger of convicting the defendant on the basis of extraneous considerations rather than the facts of the case.

The presumption of innocence principle supports the practice of releasing criminal defendants from jail prior to trial. However, the government may detain some criminal defendants without bail through the end of trial. The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that excessive bail shall not be required, but it is widely accepted that governments have the right to detain through trial a defendant of a serious crime who is a flight risk or poses a danger to the public. In such cases the presumption of innocence is largely theoretical.

Aside from the related requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the presumption of innocence is largely symbolic. The reality is that no defendant would face trial unless somebody—the crime victim, the prosecutor, a police officer—believed that the defendant was guilty of a crime. After the government has presented enough evidence to constitute Probable Cause to believe that the defendant has committed a crime, the accused need not be treated as if he or she was innocent of a crime, and the defendant may be jailed with the approval of the court.

Nevertheless, the presumption of innocence is essential to the criminal process. The mere mention of the phrase presumed innocent keeps judges and juries focused on the ultimate issue at hand in a criminal case: whether the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the alleged acts. The people of the United States have rejected the alternative to a presumption of innocence—a presumption of guilt—as being inquisitorial and contrary to the principles of a free society.

Cross-references

Criminal Procedure; Inquisitorial System.

presumption of innocence

n. a fundamental protection for a person accused of a crime, which requires the prosecution to prove its case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. This is opposite from the criminal law in many countries, where the accused is considered guilty until he/she proves his/her innocence or the government completely fails to prove its case. (See: presumption, beyond a reasonable doubt)

presumption of innocence

noun assumption of innocence, belief of innocence, criminal standard of guilt, innocent until proven guilty, predisposition of innocence, premise rested on innocence, presupposition toward innooence, reasonable supposition of innocence, required assumption of innocence, required legal assumption of innocence, supposition of innocence
Associated concepts: fundamental rights
References in periodicals archive ?
The technical answer -- that Mueller did not incriminate the president also did not vindicate him -- makes little sense when considered against the background of the presumption of innocence. Intuitively, it makes sense to say that either a prosecutor should say you're guilty of a crime, or you should be presumed innocent of it.
He added the notice did not infringe upon the defendant's presumption of innocence or right to a fair trial, since the case is still in the pre-trial stage in its investigative procedure.
He added: "There is a presumption of innocence throughout any investigative process which is right, fair and proper and we would ask in the interests of fairness that the media do not indulge in speculation.
Before his latest drug arrest, his personal attorney told the Marshall Project that he's been "smeared by the dredging of old accusations from discredited sources." But if anyone should understand the importance of the presumption of innocence and other constitutional rights of defendants, shouldn't it be an avowedly innocent man with a long history of facing criminal charges?
I would like to appeal to everyone to respect the presumption of innocence. At the moment, the Prosecutor's Office cannot say whose responsibility the accident was," Joveski said.
The court said the applicant did not explain how his rights to a fair trial and presumption of innocence had been violated but aside that, he had not shown that it was the right time for the court to issue an order.
Preynat's lawyers said the picture depicted allegations against their client as facts and should have been blocked because it does not respect the presumption of innocence. Preynat has been handed preliminary charges of sexual assaults on minors and prosecutors are determining whether he will be brought to trial.
Besides, the same cannot prevail over the presumption of innocence of two accused.
Khamasi said the law takes away the presumption of innocence.
On January 10, attorney of two ex-mayors Sergey Slesarev said that the statement violates the principle of presumption of innocence.
Presumption of Innocence in EU Anti-Cartel Enforcement
Presumption of innocence remains throughout the case until such time the prosecution on the evidence satisfies the court beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the offence alleged against him.