It is a terrifying concept to be accused of a crime you did not commit. You could be convicted and sentenced to jail time. Conversely, even if you are declared not guilty in a court of law, it can still be incredibly hard to clear your name. Once those criminal charges are associated with you, there might be people who will think you are guilty forever — no matter what you do and no matter who says otherwise. It is vital to secure the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney in LA to ensure the best chance at winning your freedom and preserving your good reputation.
Can You Be Convicted of a Crime You Didn’t Commit?
In order to be convicted of a criminal charge, a prosecutor must be able to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In response, you, as the defendant, have the right to defend yourself in order to support the fact that reasonable doubt exists. Most available defenses essentially fall into one of two distinctions:
- You are innocent of all charges; or
- You are guilty but should not be held responsible.
An example of a situation wherein you may be found to be only partly responsible is if your arresting officer is found guilty of entrapment or coercion. Yes, you may have committed the crime, but your responsibility to that crime may be limited. Another example is if you were to kill someone in self-defense.
The Right to Plead the Fifth Amendment
As part and parcel of the American legal system, a judge and jury are to believe that you are innocent until the prosecution can show otherwise. This is why defendants are allowed to “plead the fifth.”
A defendant does not need to be proactive about his case. He does not need to provide any evidence if he chooses not to, nor does he need to testify in his own defense. The key here is that it’s the prosecutor’s job to prove the defendant is guilty, not the defendant’s job to prove he is innocent.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
A prosecutor’s job is to gather up enough evidence to prove that you are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that, after hearing the prosecution’s case, there is absolutely no doubt that you are guilty of the crime you are being charged with. However, if there is any doubt whatsoever that you are guilty, even a shred, then the prosecutor has failed, and you are to be found not guilty.
This is why defendants may choose to offer up evidence to support their innocence, even though they are not required to prove their innocence. Casting doubt on the strength of the prosecution’s case can mean the difference between a defendant being found guilty or not guilty.
What Kind of Evidence Can You Offer to Prove Your Innocence?
While a defendant is not required to prove his innocence, a defendant can punch holes in the prosecution’s case by instilling reasonable doubt in the judge and jury. One of the best ways a defendant can do this is to prove that there is no way he could have committed the crime. For example, you can provide an alibi.
An alibi is a type of defense wherein you can provide proof that you were somewhere else, and maybe even with someone else, at the time the crime was committed. If you were buying groceries with your mother at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night, how could you have robbed that convenience store at the same time? Additionally, the person you were with can testify as a witness at your trial to support your case.
It is important to write down everything you can remember about the date in question while the details are still fresh in your head. You may also want to compile a list of potential witnesses who may be able to testify on your behalf, including their contact information and what they can provide at trial.
What If You Acted in Self Defense?
This falls into the “You did it, but you shouldn’t be held responsible” distinction. When a person is acting in self-defense, this typically means that he or she had to resort to the use of force or violence (like punching or shooting the other person) to protect him or herself from harm.
Self-defense is a legitimate defense, though it can be difficult to prove. The defendant must be able to show that his actions were necessary and reasonable because he reasonably believed that danger upon his person or property was imminent. Shooting someone who is about to punch you is not a reasonable reaction.
Can You Plead Insanity?
The insanity defense is almost always more successful on TV than it is in real life. This is because you have to be able to prove that the defendant was unable to tell the difference between right and wrong while he was committing the crime. That’s right – this is a partial responsibility defense. You’re still admitting to the crime, but disputing your motivation.
In order to prevail on an insanity defense, the defendant must endure potentially painful and humiliating psychiatric testing. Additionally, he or she must rely on the testimony of a psychiatrist, who can support the idea that the defendant was insane at the time of the crime.
Even if you prevail on an insanity defense, this more than likely does not mean that you will be found not guilty and set free. Rather, you will be sent to a psychiatric institution, as opposed to jail.
How Do You Defend Yourself Against False Accusations?
Because of the complex nature of criminal law and the high stakes involved with your freedom and reputation, you may want to seriously consider hiring a criminal defense attorney if you are falsely accused of a crime. Why mess around with your livelihood?
If you are unsure as to whether you may have a case, let us help. Give us a call at 310-997-4688 for a FREE case evaluation, or fill out the form to the right. One of our respected attorneys will work with you to help you understand your next steps without any obligation to go further than your initial consultation.