What Is a Presumption of Innocence in Law

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After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the West began to practice feudal law, which was a synthesis of aspects of Roman law as well as some Germanic customs according to the new elite, including presumed guilt. For example, the accused could prove his innocence by having twelve people swear that he could not have done what he was accused of. In practice, this tended to favour the nobility over the lower classes, whose witnesses might be considered less credible. [20] After the rediscovery of Roman law in the 12th century and the development of the ius commune, the canon law of the Catholic Church influenced the common law in the Middle Ages[21] by preserving Roman jurisprudence from the presumption of innocence. [22] Given the massive human impact of criminal proceedings on the accused and the presumption of innocence, judicial proceedings should take place without undue delay. It would be unfair to allow States to make numerous attempts to obtain a conviction. If a case is brought before the courts and guilt is not proven, the person should not be retried, except in exceptional circumstances. This requires the State to properly carry out the task of prosecuting at first instance. In Canadian law, the presumption of innocence has been strengthened in some cases. The Criminal Code previously contained many provisions according to which the defence of certain crimes was subject to a reverse duty: that is, if a defendant wanted to carry out that defence, he had to prove the facts of the defence, weighing the probabilities, instead of the Crown having to refute the defence without a doubt.

This meant that a defendant could be convicted in certain circumstances, even if there was a reasonable doubt as to his guilt. In several cases, various provisions of the reversal of the presumption of innocence in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been found to be contrary to the presumption of innocence. They were replaced by trials in which the accused only had to demonstrate a “touch of reality” for the proposed defence, after which the burden was shifted to the Crown to refute the defence. The presumption of innocence is a cardinal principle of our judicial system. It is the duty of the Crown to prove guilt beyond any doubt. Without the principle of innocence, the government would not have to prove guilt and an accused would be denied his right to due process. Essentially, the presumption of innocence of an accused places the burden of proof on the prosecution. According to the already mentioned Roman law of Justinian, who lived in the early Middle Ages, the Byzantine Empire generally continued its legal code, which includes the presumption of innocence. This also influenced neighboring states in its cultural field, such as the Eastern Orthodox, Slavic principalities such as Serbia. Because of the presumption of innocence, a person cannot be forced to confess guilt or testify against himself. It is up to the state to provide evidence of guilt, not to the accused to prove his innocence. In general, therefore, a suspect`s silence should not be used as evidence of guilt.

The presumption of innocence is a legal principle according to which anyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Under the presumption of innocence, the legal burden of proof therefore lies with the Public Prosecutor`s Office, which must submit convincing evidence to the Trier of Facts (a judge or jury). If the charge does not confirm the charge, the person will be acquitted of the charges. In most cases, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is unequivocally guilty. If there are reasonable doubts, the accused must be acquitted. The reverse system is a presumption of guilt. In the Hungarian criminal justice system, “the most general concept is that any person (suspect, accused or not) must be presumed innocent until a final verdict finds the person guilty. But there is another view – and it usually appears in international statements – that does not link the cessation of the presumption of innocence to a final judgment, but is “satisfied” with any provision establishing guilt on the basis of the law. There is a significant difference between the two formulations. The final judgment usually means the end of the criminal proceedings, which can still take place many years after the date of the crime committed.

This may happen, for example, when he is caught red-handed, witness testimony, the author`s confession, the author must be considered innocent for a few years until the final verdict is rendered despite the facts listed above. [13] The presumption of innocence is considered a fundamental right of any person charged with a criminal offence. Although the U.S. Constitution contains no language relating to the presumption of innocence, it first prevailed in 1895 in Coffin v. United States. Three constitutional amendments support the presumption of innocence, including the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and fourteenth, all of which express the protection of the accused. The “presumption of innocence” serves to emphasize that the prosecution is required to prove any element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt (or any other level of evidence depending on the criminal justice system) and that the accused does not have the burden of proof. [23] This is often expressed in the phrase “presumed innocent until proven guilty” coined by British lawyer Sir William Garrow (1760-1840)[24] in 1791 during a trial at the Old Bailey.

Garrow insisted that prosecutors be rigorously scrutinized in court. Presumption means:[23] A fundamental element of the right to a fair trial is that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty […].