On the one hand, it may seem like a criminal defense attorney has it easy. The weight of proving guilty is shouldered by the competition; the prosecutor. On the other hand, representing someone accused of a crime requires planning and research. The goal is to show that there is a reasonable doubt as to the client’s guilt. Sometimes, this can be just as difficult.
What does it mean?
The goal of a criminal defense attorney is either to prove his client’s innocence or establish a reasonable doubt. Ideally, if a person is innocent of the crime, there would be plenty of proof that establishes this. If a person were guilty, all evidence would clearly point to this. The problem is that very few cases are simple. There are all kinds of factors that play into determining another person’s guilt.
Juries are often instructed to consider the fact that guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt. If there is any doubt or unbelief that the person charged is guilty, they cannot find in favor of the prosecution. A criminal defense attorney looks for different ways to show demonstrate reasonable doubt. He wants the jurors to think twice before proceeding with a conviction.
How can reasonable doubt be established?
One of the most popular ways that a criminal defense attorney can establish a reasonable doubt it proving the possibility that someone else could have committed the crime. If the defendant was in another location during the crime, a juror must assume that someone else could have been involved. If there is proof that someone else was in the area of the crime and their presence cannot be explained, this produces reasonable doubt.
This is not always easy to set up for the jurors because there is a wide range of ideas accepted as a definition for reasonable doubt. The goal is to provide as many opportunities or examples when another person or group could have committed the crime. Just one piece of evidence or one scenario may not be enough to convince the juror.
Is this a fail proof system?
Any criminal defense attorney will tell you that the concept of reasonable doubt is not a fail proof portion of the legal system. Because it is sometimes ambiguous and jurors do not understand what it means in light of their responsibility, it can fail a defendant. At this point, while it may not be perfect, it is an established principle that in many cases, works. This is the reason that cases are not resolved right away with only one person determining another’s guilt or innocence. Evidence and proof need to be established before a person can be convicted and punished for the crimes of which they are accused.