You might not know much about how the legal system works but it is almost certain you have learned a thing or two about the criminal system just from watching television. Shows such as Law and Order often recite the basic principals of the criminal system. Phrases such as innocent until proven guilty and beyond a reasonable doubt are probably the phrases you hear most often from television or other media coverage. Although much of the television you watch is fiction based the phrases so far mentioned represent grains of truth embedded in the show.
In the criminal system, the law presumes every person charged with committing an offense to be innocent until proven guilty. In order to overcome this presumption of innocence, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The legal system uses the standard of reasonable doubt to reduce the margin of error inherent in human judgments when the defendant’s liberty is at stake. Ultimately, the Court wants to ensure an innocent man is not sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Reasonable doubt is described as a substantial doubt, a kind of doubt that causes the juror to hesitate in making a decision as to the defendant’s guilt. The prosecution must prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt as to every element of the crime. For example, the crime of battery is defined as the unlawful touching or striking of another with the intention to bring about a harmful or offensive contact. Here, the prosecution must prove there was not only an unlawful application of force but that the defendant intended to apply an unlawful application of force. The prosecution may rely upon circumstantial or direct evidence but no matter what evidence they choose to present they must prove that the evidence presented points to a finding beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once the prosecution has met its burden the burden shifts to the defendant to establish a defense. Often times, the defendant has committed the crime he is charged with but there are attending circumstances that excuse his behavior. For example, it is quite possible a person committed a battery upon another in self-defense. Suppose a man lunged at the defendant with a knife and the defendant in turn punched him. Self-defense would be a valid defense in this situation and it could excuse the defendant’s behavior and relieve him of criminal liability.
In any case, the prosecution carries a heavy burden. But, once that burden is met, the defendant carries an even heavier burden to refute the evidence presented. Daniel Selwa is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Myrtle Beach and he will ensure your best defense is put forward in Court.