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Why is the presumption of innocence so important?

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Innocent until proven guilty is a term that most people are familiar with, but what does it really mean?

The presumption of innocence is actually something that is enshrined in law, largely through the logic of the court’s decision in the pivotal case of Taylor vs. Kentucky. Subsequently, all criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.

The right to a fair trial

While there is no explicit reference to the presumption of innocence in the U.S. Constitution, there is some crossover with the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. A trial cannot be fair if the defendant is presumed guilty before it commences.

Some factors that may interfere with a defendant’s right to the presumption of innocence include:

  • Implying guilt because a defendant has asserted their right to remain silent
  • Delaying a trial unnecessarily
  • Media accounts commenting on the guilt of the accused before the trial
  • Improper jury selection and conduct
  • Trying an individual for the same crime twice

Any form of prejudicial behavior from law enforcement, the media, prosecutors and the courts could interfere with an individual’s right to the presumption of innocence.

Why does it matter?

As the potential penalties and collateral consequences of criminal convictions can be severe, it is important to set the standard of proof very high. A person should not lose their liberty unless there is substantial evidence that they committed an offense. There should be no other reasonable explanations for what happened.

If you are facing criminal charges, seeking legal guidance will help ensure that your right to the presumption of innocence is upheld. Seeking help quickly is important, as it may be necessary to secure evidence immediately in order to protect your rights and preserve your options.