major crime lawyer William R. Moore

Criminal Law & Standards of Proof

Most people are familiar with the standard of proof in a criminal trial, notes Broward criminal defense attorney William Moore. The state, represented by the prosecutor, must prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order for the judge or jury to convict. What constitutes reasonable doubt depends. For instance, DNA or video evidence clearly showing that the defendant was present at the scene of the crime, or actually committed the crime, is quite compelling. Nonetheless, what constitutes proof beyond a reasonable doubt depends on the facts of each case, and the burden is always on the state to prove the defendant’s guilt -- not on the defendant to prove his own innocence. It is important to note that many or probably most criminal cases lack the highly definitive proof, like DNA, that many jurors like to see. Some criminal defendants are surprised to learn that they can be convicted based primarily on the credible testimony of other witnesses. In any case, the defendant is not required to testify, and if he chooses not to do so, that fact cannot be used against him. Jurors are specifically instructed that they are to draw no inferences, such as that the defendant must have a guilty conscience, from his choice not to testify.

Even though it is often said that the truth may be stranger than fiction, an off-the-wall explanation is not sufficient in most instances to create reasonable doubt. Just because the defendant or his defense attorney suggests that there is an alternative way that events could have unfolded that does not incriminate him does not believe that the suggestion will convince the jurors beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, in DUI cases, an implausible story regarding a second person who was the actual driver -- where that person cannot be located, the defendant cannot produce him as a witness, and the arresting law enforcement officer never saw another individual -- will probably not create reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds, where the state has otherwise proven its case.

The notion that a criminal defendant is innocent until proven guilty is extremely important in American law, points out Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Moore. As a matter of public sentiment, people often believe that a person must be guilty of the crime of which they are accused, or must have at least done something wrong, if they have been arrested at all. This is often an incorrect assumption based on their faith in law enforcement. Even the most dedicated and well-meaning police officers can still come to an incorrect conclusion regarding the commission of a crime.

Do you need to speak with a DUI Defense Lawyer in Broward County? Contact our Criminal Defense Hotline at 954-523-5333. Our Defense Attorneys will answer any questions you may have in regards to the Florida State Criminal Laws.