One of the most basic principles in the American legal system is that a person who is accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. This principle is the bedrock of our criminal justice justice system, and should be remembered by everyone who is involved in a criminal case.
The presumption of innocence in criminal cases throughout the United States (in both state and federal court), stems from the Bill of Rights and was first expressly recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432 (1895). In that case, the Supreme Court stated “The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law.” That principle applies to all criminal prosecutions in the United States by any level of government.
In Illinois, there is also a presumption of innocence that is codified in the criminal code:
(720 ILCS 5/3-1)
Sec. 3-1. Presumption of innocence and proof of guilt.
Every person is presumed innocent until proved guilty. No person shall be convicted of any offense unless his guilt thereof is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Iowa has a presumption of innocence codified in its criminal code as well:
Iowa Code 701.3 PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE.
Every person is presumed innocent until proved guilty. No person shall be convicted of any offense unless the person’s guilt thereof is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
As the caselaw and statutes at the federal level and in states including Illinois and Iowa make clear, innocent until proven guilty is the law of the land. That is with good reason, as a criminal charge is just an accusation. As an attorney who has represented thousands of clients in criminal cases, I know that a great many people are falsely accused of a crime. Handling such cases properly, and showing that the charges are without merit, goes a long way to helping rectify the harm that was caused by a false charge.
Tags for this legal blog article: 720 ILCS 5/3-1, Actually Innocent, Criminal Defense, Criminal History, Criminal Record, False, False Reports, Federal Criminal Law, Illinois Criminal Charges, Innocent Until Proven Guilty, Iowa Code 701.3, Iowa Criminal Charges, Presumption of Innocence