Where Does the Burden of Proof Rest in a Criminal Case?

Where Does the Burden of Proof Rest in a Criminal Case?

The phrase burden of proof refers to the responsibility of one party in a trial to prove that another person committed the alleged crime. In general, the burden rests on the entity that is making the accusations, which is the government – or prosecutor – in criminal cases.

During the trial, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. This obligation requires that they present evidence showing that the defendant violated each specific element of an offense. For example, in under Florida Statute §893.135, it is illegal for an individual to knowingly manufacture a controlled substance. To obtain a conviction for drug manufacturing, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant “knowingly” carried out the offense and that the collected items are considered controlled substances under Florida law.

High Standards Placed on the Prosecutor

Because a conviction can affect the rights and freedoms of the accused, the standards the prosecutor must meet to establish guilt are high. Although the standards do not require that the prosecutor provide evidence that leaves absolutely no question of the defendant’s guilt, it must be such that the factfinder (judge or jury) can say, with moral certainty, that the accused is guilty. If the prosecutor fails to meet the burden of proof for all elements of a crime, the factfinder must render a not guilty verdict.

Shifting Burdens

In a way, the burden can “shift” to the defendant when the prosecutor presents evidence demonstrating that a specific element of the offense was violated. The defendant does not have to prove their innocence; instead they must produce their own evidence that disproves the prosecutor’s claim. For example, if the prosecutor shows that instruments used to manufacture drugs were found in the defendant’s home, the defendant would need to produce documents or testimony showing that the items were used for a different purpose, and thereby refutes the prosecutor’s assertion.

Schedule a Free Case Review with Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez, P.A.

If you’re facing criminal accusations, our attorney can provide the legal help you need to fight charges. With over 15 years of experience, we have an extensive understanding of the criminal trial process and have successfully gotten charges dismissed and achieved not guilty verdicts for past clients. When you work with us, we will thoroughly review the facts of your case to present evidence that challenges the prosecutor’s claims against you.

Schedule your free evaluation by calling us at (305) 400-0074 or contacting us online.

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