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What is the presumption of innocence?

You have many rights when you face a criminal charge. You probably know about your civil rights, including the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent.

At the heart of the criminal justice system is another right: the presumption of innocence. According to Cornell Law School, this is a rule that you are innocent until proven guilty.

Prosecution role

Under the presumption of innocence, the prosecutor must provide evidence and other proof to show the court you have committed a criminal act. Every law has elements to it that the prosecutor must prove. If the prosecution cannot prove all elements of a crime, then the court must find you not guilty because the prosecution did not prove your guilt.

Your role

Despite how it may seem, you do not have to prove you are innocent. When you go into court, the court must look at you as an innocent person. You will have to provide evidence to disprove anything the prosecution puts forth. This is your defense to the prosecution’s attempts to prove you guilty.

The importance

The presumption of innocence is one of the most sacred rights you have as an American. The Founding Fathers recognized that every person should have security against unfounded accusations.

If the presumption of innocence did not exist, it could severely damage the integrity of the criminal justice system. Anyone could accuse you of anything, and it is difficult to prove innocence, which is why you have this right.

It keeps the judicial system fair. It ensures you do not have to face punishment for crimes you did not commit. While it may not always work perfectly, it is still one of the main things that keep the criminal justice system as fair as possible.