Innocent Until Proven Guilty

innocent, guilty, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyOne of the cornerstones of American criminal law and jurisprudence is the assumption that all citizens are innocent until proven guilty. This most basic principle is designed to guide the actions of law enforcement, prosecutors, defenders, and the rules of courtroom procedure to ensure that an accused individual is not treated as guilty until the facts clearly demonstrate such to be true.

Presumption of Innocence

The concept of innocent until proven guilty, to the surprise of many, is not explicitly addressed in the United States Constitution or the Bill of Rights. However, the Fifth Amendment states that no person can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. For centuries “due process of law” in western culture, has included the basic tenet that an accused individual must be proven guilty.

Among the earliest legal citations for the idea can be found in Digesta seu Pendectae¸ or the Digest, compiled in the 6th century by the Roman emperor Justinian I. The Digest represented part of the Corpus Juris Civilis or the “Body of Civil Law.” Among the writings contained the Digest was the general rule of evidence: Ei inumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat—“Proof lies on he who asserts, not on he who denies.”  The United States Supreme Court officially recognized the presumption in its 1895 decision in Coffin v. United States.

Not Guilty vs. Innocent

While the legal system recognizes that an accused individual must be proven guilty to justify the deprivation of life, liberty, or property, American courts do not acknowledge the state of innocence. In a court of law, if the evidence is sufficient, a defendant can be proven guilty. Anything short of an official determination of guilt is, by definition, not guilty. A defendant cannot be officially found “innocent.” Of course, this complicates the idea of innocent until proven guilty, but, as a maxim, the concept still applies.

Representation for Your Case

When you have been arrested and charged with a crime, it is important to remember that you have not been found guilty of anything. Such findings can only be made by due process of law, which includes a presentation of the evidence against you. If you are facing criminal charges, the help of an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney can be vital in protecting your future. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation. We will review your case, explain your options, and work with you in achieving the best possible outcome.  

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