The presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle of criminal law that states that anyone accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty.
This principle implies that the accused does not have to prove his innocence, but rather, it is the prosecutor who has to present sufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
How does the presumption of innocence work in California?
The presumption of innocence in California is based on the United States Constitution, which, in its Sixth Amendment, guarantees the right to a fair and impartial trial by a jury of equals.
Furthermore, the California Penal Code provides that the jury must presume that the defendant is innocent, and that presumption can only be destroyed by evidence that excludes all logical possibility that the defendant is not the perpetrator of the crime.
This means that the jury must consider all the evidence presented by both sides, both that favoring the accused and that which disadvantages him, and can only return a verdict of guilty if it is satisfied that there is no reasonable explanation other than that the accused committed the crime.
If the jury cannot reach a unanimous agreement, a mistrial is declared, and the prosecutor can decide whether to refile the charges or dismiss them.
What rights does the presumption of innocence give you in California?
The presumption of innocence in California gives you a series of rights that you should know and exercise if you face criminal charges. These rights are:
- The right to remain silent and not to testify against yourself. You do not have to answer questions from the police or the prosecutor without your lawyer present. You also don’t have to testify at trial if you don’t want to. Your silence cannot be used as proof of your guilt.
- The right to have a lawyer who represents you and advises you at all times. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the state will assign you one ex officio. Your lawyer can challenge the prosecutor’s evidence, present evidence in your favor, question witnesses, and make any allegations he or she deems appropriate to defend your innocence.
- The right to request reasonable bail to be released while the process lasts. Bail is a guarantee you pay to the court to ensure that you will appear at hearings. The amount of bail depends on the severity of the crime, your background, and your flight risk. If you comply with the conditions imposed by the court, the deposit will be returned to you at the end of the process.
You have the right to a speedy and public trial by a jury of equals. The trial must be held within a reasonable time from when the charges are filed unless you or your attorney request an extension. The trial must be public unless the judge orders otherwise for reasons of security or witness protection. The jury must be made up of citizens who have no connection to the case or prejudices against you.