Can a person be convicted without evidence?
The short answer is no. In all criminal courts in America, State and Federal, the Constitution requires that the Government prove a criminal charge brought against a person beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high burden, often higher than in other countries. The reason is that the framers of the Constitution wanted to insure that persons could not be convicted on mere speculation or accusations without evidence. Even when that evidence is introduced at trial and must be so strong that there is no reasonable doubt about a person’s guilt.
Evidence in Civil Court vs Criminal Court
In civil court, there are lower standards of proof like by a “Preponderance or Greater Weight” of the evidence (51%-49% you win) or “Clear and Convincing” evidence. In criminal court, the evidence must be even more than “clear and convincing”. There must not be any reasonable doubt that the person is guilty due to an upheld conviction would result in penalties including loss of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.
Types of Evidence
Evidence can come in many forms.
- Witness Testimony – testimony from a live witness about the events that they actually witnessed
- Physical or Scientific Evidence – like finding a gun where the ballistics match that of a person shot, or DNA evidence linked to the clothing of an accused which matches the DNA of a crime victim
- Video or Audio Surveillance
- Circumstantial Evidence – for instance if it’s a sunny day and you close the blinds and hear thunder outside then open the blinds and see that it is wet you can assume that it rained even though you didn’t actually witness it rain. If property that was reported stolen is found inside someone’s vehicle, there is circumstantial evidence that that person stole the property, even if there were no eye witnesses
Beyond a Responsible Doubt Standard
A reasonable doubt can come from the evidence (the accused was somewhere else the night of the shooting where the shooting took place), from a conflict in the evidence (two separate witnesses give two different versions of what they saw) or from a lack of evidence (the Prosecutor puts on a police officer who states he thought the Defendant was driving drunk but offers no additional evidence to support this testimonial evidence).
In any criminal case, an accused must be convicted with evidence and that evidence must leave no reasonable doubt that the Defendant is guilty.
If you’ve been charged with a crime or have been brought in for questioning, call the office of Ray Lopez at 813-221-4455.