• Coastal South Law

Understanding the Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases



If you are facing criminal charges in North Carolina for drug possession or other offenses, you may be feeling unsure of what comes next. Understanding the criminal process can be helpful in terms of feeling less overwhelmed and more prepared in approaching your trial. In the United States, you are always innocent until proven guilty, although it may not feel like it while you are in handcuffs. In order to ensure that this is preserved, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that you are guilty. In other words, you do not have to prove that you are innocent. You are presumed innocent by the court until and unless the prosecution is able to prove that you are guilty. This burden on the prosecution to prove that you are guilty is known as the burden of proof.


How the Burden of Proof Works


As explained above, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove each element of the crime with which you are charged. They must prove these elements to a very high standard. In fact, they must convince the judge and jury that you are guilty of having committed each element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high bar to reach, and essentially means that if jurors have significant doubts--or any more than a reasonable doubt--about whether you committed the crime, the prosecution has failed to meet its burden of proof and you cannot be convicted of the alleged crime.


How the Burden of Proof Comes Into Play


The burden of proof becomes relevant when you get to trial. The prosecution will likely do everything within their power to meet this burden by presenting evidence and testimony to support their theory of the case. They will try to establish intent with regard to each element of the crime. The best defenses will create doubt about whether you committed the crime and about the prosecution’s chosen narrative. The more doubt that you are able to create with regard to your guilt, the harder it will be for the prosecution to succeed in meeting their burden of proof. For instance, if you are charged with constructive possession of drugs, and can put forth another individual who is more likely to have had actual possession of the drugs, as well as evidence suggesting you had no knowledge of the drugs, this will create significant doubt as to whether the drugs were yours, and will likely allow you to avoid conviction. When the prosecution presents a narrative of how a crime unfolded, presenting an equally or more probable narrative that does not involve you can create sufficient doubt to avoid a conviction, as well.


Talk to an Experienced North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney


If you are facing criminal charges in North Carolina for drug possession or other offenses, the best thing you can do is get an attorney on your side as soon as possible. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Coastal South Law are ready to zealously advocate on your behalf and fight to ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Call today to schedule a consultation.

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