Why are criminals innocent at first?
6 attorney answers
I believe what you are trying to ask is, why are individuals who are arrested presumed innocent until proven otherwise. The system is in place to ensure that innocent people do not get convicted for a crime they did not commit. It is very important, regardless how bad the facts of a case may sound, that EVERYONE is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A lot of times pre-conceptions and personal beliefs skew the facts of a case. You see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and can often get a totally distorted view therefore it's important to have a bright line rule that applies to all.
I believe it's tied into our court's criminal conviction requirements that the government must prove a defendant's charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Police don't presume people innocent; they investigate anyone they like and make arrests based on probable cause.
Suppose you're at a nightclub and somebody stabs another patron. It's fairly dark in the club and the police arrive almost immediately. There's 5 people covered in blood next to the victim. The police bring all of you to the station and nobody knows who did it so everyone gets charged.
If you were presumed guilty upon arrest then you and the other 4 arrestees have the burden of showing you're not guilty. How do you prove the absence of something? Because the innocent person cannot prove innocence as there's lack of evidence then they would be convicted.
Because you cannot prove that you didn't commit a crime, except for a solid alibi or a defense like self-defense, nearly everyone charged with be convicted. However if you did commit a crime then there would exist some type of evidence whether physical or testimonial. The police and state have the burden to prove you're guilty since they need evidence to prove the existence of the crime and that the defendant committed that crime. It's much easier to prove that something happened than to prove something did not happen. So if there's evidence and the judge/jury believe it without any reasonable doubts you can be convicted. If there's no evidence of you involved in the crime, that doesn't prove you're innocent; rather it means you cannot be legally guilty. There's a huge difference between actual innocence of causing an event versus a not guilty verdict for a lack of prosecutorial evidence.
That is basically a blank statement that you see on the TV show. It does not mean much, and the presumption of innocense applies only to a jury who is duly sworn in a trial. The prosecutor does not have to presume a defendant innocent, the judge does not have to do that, only a sworn jury has to do that. And that comes from the Constitution.
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Because without the presumption of innocence anyone could just accuse anyone of a crime whenever they felt like it. The law is in place to defend everyone's rights, including yours.
How would you feel if someone accused you of stealing hinge from them? Do you think they should be able to take away your freedom or your money without having to prove that you did what they say you did?
The presumption of innocence is in place because taking someone's freedom away is a very serious matter and in this country we don't take people's freedom away without the due process of law, which includes a fair trial.
I hope this helps!
I have attempted to provide you with an accurate and thorough answer to your question. Please understand that this answer is intended to provide you with general information. It should not be construed as legal advice, nor does it form an attorney/client relationship based on this communication. Good Luck!
You are not framing your question correctly. It is not a matter of why "criminals" are innocent first; the proper way to form this is to ask why the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In this country the determination of guilt is not made by the prosecution or police, but by an independent party, usually a jury. The police/prosecutor ALLEGE that the accused commit a crime and try to prove it, but the jury, as finder of fact, decides if the accused really DID commit the crime. This is an important check on prosecutorial power to that helps curb abuse. Additionally, the United States Constitution provides that those accused of crimes are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This presumption exists for a number of reasons. First, to ensure that people punished for crimes are in fact actually guilty of them. By presuming that the accused is innocent and requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict, we require the government to prove their case, increasing the chance that those accused are actually guilty and reducing the chance that innocent people will be convicted. Second, without the presumption of innocence, those accused of crimes could be forced to prove that they DIDN'T commit a crime - in other words, they would be required to prove a negative, or prove the NON-existence of a fact. Proving a negative is extremely difficult under any circumstances. 3. Contrary to popular belief, in the vast majority of cases, the government has vastly more resources at its disposal that the person accused of a crime (the scenario of a rich criminal buying his way off by hiring slick high-priced attorneys is pretty rare, to say the least) - given the government's huge advantage in resources, it would be virtually impossible for any innocent person wrongly accused of a crime to escape conviction if the government did not have to meet a high standard of proof to overcome a strong presumption of innocence. Third, police and prosecutors are only human, and if not held accountable some will get lazy and some will even get corrupt, resulting in unjust prosecutions and convictions of the innocent while the guilty go free; one way of holding police and prosecutors accountable is to stand up a strong presumption of innocence in favor of the accused and requiring them to overcome that presumption by proving the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (sometimes defined as proof to a moral certainty).
It ain't a perfect system, but it is better than all the others.
Does that help?
This answer does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed and no attorney client privilege or duty of confidentiality attaches.
I applaud your desire to learn and I encourage you to do so. That said, I don't know about your classes but I do know that AVVO is a website designed for folks to seek legal guidance for real world problems. It is not a forum for philosophical debate or for civics lessons.
I also know that you don't need "regular classes" to do your own homework and that you can easily use your computer (which you obviously know how to do) to search various civics issues, including the history of the "presumption of innocence".
There is a great exchange in the movie Good Will Hunting that goes like this:
Clark (Scott Winters - a Harvard Student): I was just hoping you might give me some insight into the evolution of the market economy in the southern colonies. My contention is that prior to the Revolutionary War, the economic modalities, especially in the southern colonies, could most aptly be characterized as agrarian precapitalism...
Chuckie (Ben Affleck - a "street kid"): Let me tell you something, all right...
Will: (another "street kid", although a super smart one) Of course that is your contention...
Clark: Hold on a second...
Will: You're a first year grad student. You just got finished reading some Marxian Historian, Pete Garrison probably. You're gonna' be convinced of that until next month when you get to James Lemon, then you're gonna' be talking about how the economies of Virginia and Pennsylvania were entrepreneurial and capitalist way back in 1740. That's gonna' last until next year, you're gonna' be in here regurgitating Gordon Wood, talking about ya know, the Pre-Revolutionary utopia and the capital forming effects of military mobilization.
Clark: Well, as a matter of fact I won't because Wood drastically underestimates the impact of social...
Will: (interrupting) Wood drastically... Wood drastically underestimates the impact of social distinctions predicated upon wealth, especially inherited wealth. You got that from Vickers. "Work in Essex County", page 98, right? Yeah, I read that too. Were you going to plagiarize the whole thing for us? Do you have any thoughts of your own on this matter? Or do you, is that you thing, you come into a bar, you read some obscure passage, and then pretend, you pawn it off as your own, as your own idea just to impress some girl and embarrass my friend? You see, the sad thing about a guy like you is that in 50 years, you're gonna start doing some thinking on your own and you're gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One: don't do that. And two: you dropped a 150 grand on a f*****' education you could have gotten for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.
Clark: Yeah, but I will have the degree, and you'll be serving my kids fries at a drive thru on our way to a skiing trip.
Will: (laughing) Yeah, maybe, but at least I won't be unoriginal.
You may not be Will Hunting smart (I surely am not) but you are clever enough to do your own homework.
Hopefully you will never have to experience the criminal justice system, but you should be educated and not rely upon the "Cops" introduction to form your base of knowledge.
I hope that I have been helpful in steering you in the right direction.
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