By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
One of the most common misconceptions in criminal law is people’s confusion about the difference between proving innocence and casting doubt. It’s an understandable mistake because after all — we’re all programmed since birth to hear ‘both sides of the story.’
In our system of justice — you are under absolutely no burden whatsoever to prove you are innocent. The prosecution must prove you’re guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. If they can’t, then you’re entitled to acquittal.
This is because another way of saying a person has a reasonable doubt is there is a reasonable chance the person is innocent too. So you can see the huge difference in demonstrating how innocence is a reasonable possibility and actually convincing jurors a person is innocent.
When I had jury duty in Collin County they even showed us a video where an actor said, “we had to find the person innocent” which, to me, sounds like someone scratching a chalkboard… they really had to find the person was ‘not guilty.’ and there is a huge difference.
There is really no other fair way to have a criminal trial if you really think about it.
During jury selection, I’ll often ask a panel member how they would prove to me that they didn’t break a traffic law — say speeding or running a red light — on their way to court. Most say that they could swear to it. But then they draw a blank about how they would actually prove their innocence with hard evidence and not just their word. The truth is that they could never prove their innocence unless there was some sort of camera following them on their entire trip which is silly to even think about. In fact, the harder they tried to somehow unsuccessfully prove their innocence — the guiltier they would look!
Think about all the people being let go after years and years of prison due to exoneration. Those are cases where there is DNA evidence — and DNA evidence is not commonly used in DWI cases, theft cases, or drug possession cases. It’s not always even available in murder or sexual assault cases!
If you’ve been charged in Dallas or Collin County you shouldn’t worry about whether you can prove that you’re innocent. I’ll save you the time and trouble — there is a great possibility that you can’t – and you don’t have to anyway. Focus on getting a criminal defense lawyer that can use the evidence available to cast doubt on the prosecution and state’s conclusions.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. For legal advice you should consult directly with an attorney.