Overall, the Virginia crime rate is down, but this does not mean much when you are the one facing criminal charges. Just because you are charged, it does not mean you are guilty, or your life is over. The prosecutor must meet the burden of proof for you to be found guilty. This guide will help you understand what the burden of proof is and how it will affect your defense argument.
What Is Burden of Proof?
A burden of proof is a legal standard to determine if the claim presented to the court is valid or not. The party that must meet the burden of proof is the party bringing a claim in front of the court. For example, in criminal court, the prosecutor brings the criminal charges against the defendant in front of the court.
There are three different standards that are used by applying the burden of proof, the preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing, and beyond a reasonable doubt. For criminal courts, the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard, meaning that it is the hardest to meet. To meet this standard, the court agrees that there is no other reasonable explanation than the reasoning presented in court.
Why Use a Burden of Proof?
The purpose of using this standard is to ensure that legal decisions are made based on fact and not emotion or conjecture. In addition, using a specific standard helps to define the parameters that judges or juries must use to make their determinations. This ensures that a uniform standard gets used across the courts.
Criminal charges are a serious matter that can significantly impact the future path of your life. Some crimes are also so egregious that catching the perpetrator is in society’s best interest. Enforcing a burden of proof reduces the risk of finding an innocent person guilty.
Who Bears the Burden of Proof in Criminal Court?
The prosecutor must present facts and evidence to the court in order to meet the burden of proof. A prosecutor is a lawyer that works for the government. They are the individual that files charges in the name of the state. They then use the evidence provided by the police department that was gathered during an investigation. The defendant’s attorney then argues against the prosecutor’s arguments. A crucial argument for the defendant’s attorney is to state that the prosecutor has not met the required burden of proof.
How Does Burden of Proof Affect Criminal Defense?
As the defendant, you have no burden of proof to meet. This means you do not have to prove your innocence. Instead, your criminal offense attorney will focus on presenting evidence that refutes the prosecutor’s claims. There are several types of criminal defenses that can be used.
- Self defense
- Statute of limitations
- Failure to read Miranda rights
- Unlawful search and seizure
- Unreliable witness testimony
For example, the prosecutor may claim that you were present in the area of the crime. Your defense attorney will address this claim by presenting an alibi that shows you were nowhere near the location of the crime when it took place.
In some situations, your defense attorney may agree with the prosecutor. For example, perhaps you did physically hurt someone else. However, your defense attorney will present evidence that you did so in self defense. This type of defense is called an affirmative defense. You agree that you took the actions that you are accused of. However, there are additional facts that prove you are innocent of a crime.
Burden of Proof and Criminal Charges
Each crime has a set of elements that must be proven in order to be found guilty. A prosecutor will not file charges for a crime if they do not think they can meet the burden of proof by successfully arguing each element of the crime. This is important because it can provide negotiating leverage for your defense attorney. If the evidence is not strong for a particular crime, your attorney may be able to negotiate for a plea deal for a lesser crime.