The presumption of a defendant’s innocence is one of the most important tenets of the criminal justice system in the United States. One could reasonably argue that it is THE most important principle. While the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” seems to have been forgotten in the court of public opinion—especially in regard to recent allegations of sex crimes against high-profile individuals—a person is still legally presumed to be innocent until that person has been proven guilty of committing the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The Importance of Due Process
The phrase “due process” is the only legal principle that appears twice in the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment guarantees that a person cannot be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without the due process of law,” while the Fourteenth Amendment extends the idea to each of the states. But, what does the phrase mean?
Due process refers to the series of actions and court proceedings through which a criminal suspect is found either guilty or not guilty. The mere allegation of a crime is not enough to create the assumption of guilt, and the presumption of innocence is a major component of due process. Without the promise of due process, the other protections offered by the Bill of Rights and the other amendments to the Constitution would be essentially worthless.
The principle of due process has its roots in the Magna Carta, which was signed in the early 1200s. Prior to that document, kings and other ruling bodies could treat subjects and citizens unfairly without repercussions. When the Magna Carta was signed, it promised that nobody should be arrested, harmed, or have his or her property taken away except “by the law of the land.” In essence, the government was required to act within the boundaries created by law.
Protecting Yourself When Facing Charges
Due process also provides a society with a conscience of sorts. As long as the presumption of innocence is upheld and due process is required to overcome that presumption, the court system will remain focused on punishing those proven guilty and freeing the innocent.
Of course, this does not always work perfectly, and innocent people are found guilty of crimes they did not commit. In many cases, a wrongful conviction can be prevented with proper legal representation. If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced San Jose criminal defense attorney right away. We will review your case and help you build an aggressive defense that protects your rights and your future. Call 408-277-0377 for a free consultation today.