People who are facing criminal charges often think that they have to prove their side of the case — or prove their innocence. While this might be how it seems, the burden to prove their side of the case actually falls on the prosecutor.
The idea that every defendant is “innocent until proven guilty” is a cornerstone of our criminal legal system. Understanding more about what it takes to prove guilt in a criminal case can help you strategize your defense.
What standard of proof applies to these criminal cases?
The burden of proof in a criminal case is set very high. Prosecutors must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is any doubt in a juror’s mind, they shouldn’t issue a conviction. This is why a good defense will pick at the prosecution’s case from multiple angles, whenever possible, challenging the evidence they’ve collected, the way that they apply the law and their narrative of events.
Sometimes, raising the specter of reasonable doubt in a juror’s mind can be done by offering alternative narratives that fit the sequence of events central to the crime. Sometimes, it merely means offering a reasonable alternative explanation for a defendant’s actions.
In other words, a criminal case is never about what the prosecution thinks, only what they can prove. There are many ways to challenge the prosecution’s assumptions in court.
What should you do if you’re facing federal criminal charges?
Anyone who’s facing federal criminal charges should remember that the government has vast resources to prosecute cases. This means that good preparation is the key to your defense.