Proving Your Innocence
Berry Law has represented many persons outraged that the government has charged them with crimes. They look forward to their day in court, when they can “prove” their innocence. While it is understandable that most people who are charged with crimes feel they need to fight to get their reputations back, the criminal justice system is not set up for a person to prove his or her innocence. In fact, a jury does not get to decide whether a criminal defendant is innocent. The only options a jury has is to find a criminal defendant “guilty” or “not guilty.”
The burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt rests with the government throughout the case. At Berry Law, we have won jury trials without putting on any evidence.
When we win without putting on any evidence, it is because we attack the government’s case and the jury focuses on the government’s burden. The government must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof in the American legal system.
In some cases, it makes sense for a criminal defense lawyer to present alibi witnesses, character witnesses, social media records, and any other evidence that might raise reasonable doubt. However, at the end of a jury trial, the jury still does not decide whether the criminal defendant is guilty or is innocent, only whether the government has proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Many criminal defendants are disappointed when they learn this, especially when they feel they have been wrongly accused and hope to win back their reputations at trial.
People charged with crimes often want to clear their reputations right away and plan to sue either the government or the person who has brought forth false allegations. But as my dad always says, you cannot fight while you’re standing in quicksand. What this means is that a person charged with a crime should not pursue a civil lawsuit at the same time. Criminal defendants have certain protections that are not available in civil cases. For example, a criminal defendant does not have to give a statement or have his deposition taken. However, in a civil case, the opponent may take a defendant’s deposition which would force that criminal defendant to give a statement prior to trial. In a criminal case, a defendant does not have to give a statement, invoking his 5th amendment right to remain silent. Practicing this right cannot be held against a criminal defendant. If a criminal defendant invokes his right to remain silent, the judge will instruct the jury that they cannot presume any negative inference from this decision.
However, in a civil case, if a person charged with a crime decides to invoke his right to remain silent, the judge will allow the jury to infer whatever it wants from invoking that right.
The bottom line: A criminal defendant has many more rights in a criminal case than in a civil case.
However, after the criminal case is complete and the defendant is found not guilty, the trial defendant may decide that he does want to sue. Because jeopardy attaches, the criminal defendant may not be charged twice for the same crime, and therefore could pursue a civil case with less criminal liability.
However, it is important to note that even if the criminal defendant eventually wins the civil case, it doesn’t mean that the damage is undone. As we all know, information on the Internet do not go away. Sure, a person may feel vindicated after they have been found not guilty in a court of law, but there is no verdict in the judicial system that finds a person innocent.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, please call the Berry Law at (402) 817-6550 or contact us online. We won’t be able to prove your innocence, but we can defend your rights and make sure you’re given a fair trial.