When discussing a case with a criminal defense attorney, you may find yourself wondering why the question of your innocence doesn't come up a lot. To be blunt, it's rare that a defendant's innocence matters.
The Adversarial System
America uses what is sometimes referred to as an adversarial system. This means that two sides square off against each other. A government entity, usually a prosecutor's office from a state or local law enforcement agency, has the job of proving that a crime occurred, you were involved, and your involvement makes you guilty.
On the opposite side of this conflict is the criminal defense, you and your attorney. You're not required by law to show that you're innocent. You could have done every single thing the prosecution accuses you of and more, and that means nothing if they can't prove their case. The reality is that innocent people can go to jail on strong cases and guilty people can walk on weak ones.
The Job of a Criminal Defense Attorney
A typical criminal defense is built around poking holes in the prosecution's case. This can lead to using a wide range of tactics, including getting evidence thrown out, impeaching witness testimony, and even directly attacking the legal logic of the charges.
For example, a criminal defense attorney will review how the police gathered the evidence that's going to be presented at trial. The prosecution has to tell the defense everything they intend to enter as evidence because American law does not allow ambushes in court.
Suppose that a police officer said that you had thrown away a gun after you had spotted the cops near you. To enter the gun into evidence, the police have to show how they found the gun and why they think it's tied to you. Likewise, they have to document who handled the gun and what measures they took to prevent the evidence from being contaminated by things like the police officer's fingerprints and gunpowder residue from other weapons tested at a lab. If a criminal defense attorney can find a hole in any part of that chain of events, they can ask the judge to throw the evidence out.
Another potential advantage for criminal defense is exploring multiple angles. The prosecution can't make up 5 different stories about what happened. Conversely, the defense is allowed to consider things like police procedures, constitutional arguments, alternative explanations, other possible suspects, and potential alibis to poke holes in a case.
For more information, contact a criminal defense attorney.
Hello, I'm Christina Miller. Have you ever been fascinated with why the law works the way it does? Ever since I was in junior high, I had an intense interest in anything related to our legal system, whether it be a crime drama on television, a judge show or a legal case covered on the news. I followed it all. As time progressed, I began learning about how the actual legal system worked and not just the fictionalized version of our legal system. This has lead me to start writing my own blog posts about law that I hope will help others.