SC Law Blog

Welcome to the South Carolina Law Blog where there is open discussion through feedback on hot legal topics in this state. Feel free to comment and/or suggest a topic to address.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Innocent till proven Guilty

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.

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1 comment:

  1. Daniel perhaps you can shed some light on a matter of law that truly disturbs me. In family court, why are the men treated guilty until proven less guilty? The judges always award custody to the mother, unless she is guilty of child endangerment, then award the father about one day a week to see their children. The state guidelines for child support then put the father in a support order that is so high that he cannot afford to pay the basics for his own standard of living. That being a mortgage or rent payment, car payment, utilities, insurance, groceries, etc. So when the child comes to visit his or her dad, they see a broken man whose only joy in life is the fact that he is with his kids for their one day they have. Statistics show that children who grow up in fatherless homes are, by a large majority, turning to drugs, crime, prostitution, suicide, incarceration, etc. The family court systematically takes loving caring fathers and turns them into heartbroken financially broken men that are desparate to spend quality time with their kids, but can't because they are broke. These are the fathers that are fortunate enough to at least keep a job and avoid the penetintary. Once you lose your job (in an economy that unemployment lingers around 8%) or you take a decrease in pay, and miss a payment you go to jail. The same jail that houses violent criminals, even though he has commited no crime, he is guilty. While in prison his child support is still accumulating, and when he gets out, nobody will hire him because he has a record. It seems to me that our prisons are overpopulated with non violent offenders and child support deliquent fathers. I never hear politicians working on decreasing our prison populations, but instead more grant money going to prisons (j. ruben long added a new wing within the last five yesrs or so). It appears to me that prisons have become a profitable business, and this is one of our biggest failures as a society. If we tried to fix the problem at the source instead of the dealing with the aftermath, I feel that we could reduce the number of prisons needed. Most criminals, at some point in their life, made a decision to rob, steal, murder, etc out of desparation. This desparation is usually fueled by drug use. If we had more organizations that help people get off drugs and live a clean life, they wont get to the point of desparation that leads to violent crime. With the drug epidemic in our country, that could create a lot of jobs in the rehabilition industry. If we reform the Dept of Social Services and family court, we could have less fathers in jail or in poverty. This can be done by less full custody or primary/secondary, and more joint custody. It makes life fair for fathers, the mothers don't have to take on all the responsibity, and it helps the child develop good parenting skills (because they tend to repeat the patterns they see growing up). CoParenting yields better results than CoRectional facilities. It seems to me that we have civil rights, womens rights, animal rights, gay rights, but where are the fathers rights? The custody access support system is an old outdated model that only hurts fathers, kids and society bevause tax payers fund the prisons that hold all the so called "deadbeat dads". It seems to me that if you have a child, and you and the mom don't stay together, you are guilty until proven guilty, even if no crime has been commited.