Sunday, August 31, 2008

Presumption of Innocence

Well, I guess it's official. You are no longer assumed innocent until the state proves you guilty of a crime. You're required to prove your innocence.

Ok, I am being sarcastic. But I had a potential client call me last week. He had been summoned into General Sessions court to answer charges (felony). He went into court on the appointed date and asked for time to get a lawyer. During that process he had time to speak to the District Attorney and explained to her that he didn't do what he was accused of. In fact, he doesn't even know the complaining witness. Never heard of her, never spoke to her, never has seen her.

The District Attorney replied that it wasn't any problem. They'd give him another court date and he could come back. The witness would be there and, if he could prove he was innocent the charges would be dismissed.

Unbelievable. But that's the way the system seems to be working. It started with speeding tickets, where you might as well pay - the judge is going to accept the word of the cop and the radar gun no matter what - and now it just continues to spread into all other areas of the system. I think that your average juror believes that you are guilty - that you must have done something or the police wouldn't have arrested you.

Oh well, I guess it just makes the role of the defense attorney more important than ever. It really does make it almost impossible for a defendant to get a fair shake without hiring a lawyer.


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