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Illinois federal crime defense attorneyIn any criminal case—including a federal criminal case—the prosecutors bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that the defendant has committed the crime in question. But, what does it mean to prove the defendant’s guilt? The standard of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means that the jury or the judge must believe “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the suspect did what prosecutors say he or she did. The tricky part of this standard, however, is defining reasonable doubt.

Defining Reasonable Doubt

Depending on the case in question, prosecutors may attempt to explain to jurors what reasonable doubt means. Defense attorneys sometimes present a definition of their own, as well. For example, a prosecuting attorney in California once compared the standard to a puzzle that is missing a single piece, suggesting that even with a missing piece, it was still clear what the puzzle showed. The case resulted in a conviction that was later overturned on appeal because by attempting to define reasonable doubt, the prosecutor effectively told jurors they could convict the defendant based on incomplete information.

For reasons like this, the parties in a criminal case are generally not encouraged to offer their own definitions of reasonable doubt. The same is true if the judge is not careful about explaining reasonable doubt to the jurors.

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Chicago IL federal criminal defense lawyerWhen you are charged with a federal criminal offense, you are likely to be very upset and confused. You might not know how you ended up being charged, and you probably have serious concerns about how the case will play out. These are all understandable feelings, but if left unchecked, they can lead to you taking the wrong type of action. You could find yourself doing things that might actually harm your case and make things worse for yourself. If you are facing federal charges, be aware of these common mistakes so that you can avoid them.

1. Careless Posting on Social Media

When a person is arrested on any criminal charges, he or she is given the Miranda warnings. These warnings remind a person of his or her right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. They also remind the suspect that anything he or she says can be used against him or her. It is critical to remember that this does not just apply to conversations or interrogations with the police. Anything you say at any time, including what you post on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform, could be used by prosecutors against you. The best advice is to stay away from social media entirely while your case is ongoing, but you should absolutely avoid posting anything related to the case or the alleged crime.

2. Giving Information to the Police

Many people are not aware that they are not required to talk with the police, especially before they are reminded of their rights. If you are detained or arrested by the police, you do not have to answer any questions about the case, and you certainly should not say anything that might cause you to appear guilty. Invoking your Fifth Amendment right does not make you look guilty. It simply demonstrates that you understand your rights and how they apply.

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