What Does it Take to Prove Actual Innocence in a NY Criminal Case?
When you are accused of a crime your attorney does not have to prove actual innocence. While your innocence can be a defense, the standard for a criminal case is that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A jury is not supposed to convict you if your attorney can build reasonable doubt in their minds.
Actual Innocence is an Appeals Term, not a Criminal Case Term
“Actual innocence” is a term that comes up in criminal appeals. The appeal will claim that the defendant has been wrongfully convicted and should be released as a result. This is only a successful appeal strategy in cases where new evidence comes to light after the trial has been completed.
The evidence must have been unavailable at the time of the trial. In some cases, this will be a “Bare Claim.” For example, in many older cases DNA evidence was not available. Now that the science has caught up there is an opportunity to present evidence that exonerates the wrongfully convicted.
It is our goal to get most of our clients acquitted. We can do this by showing the facts of the case do not support the idea that the defendant is guilty. For example if we have receipts which show you were 500 miles away from the location of the crime then this should tend to build doubt in the minds of jurors. This doubt should lead to your acquittal, a verdict of “not guilty.”
Sometimes it’s more advantageous to prove that there is merely insufficient proof to convict, rather than attempting to focus on the idea that there was no way that a criminal defendant could possibly have committed the crime they are being charged with.
Innocence is Not Required
Courts never declare anyone innocent. They only ever declare that someone is guilty or not guilty. This is a good thing! If we were required to prove innocence every time it would be almost impossible to get anyone accused of a crime acquitted, and that’s typically what we want whenever it is possible.
“Not guilty” means the evidence was not strong enough to convict you and that the jury had reasonable doubt as to whether or not you committed a crime.
This may not even mean that you weren’t caught in the act of doing something. Let’s take a DWI case as an example. The facts may be that it was proven you did some sort of drinking prior to getting behind the wheel of a car. You were at the bar: your receipts show this.
Yet it is not clear whether you were impaired or above the legal limit. If we can so the breathalyzer results were inconclusive, that you were following traffic laws and were not driving in any kind of a problematic way, then we can cast reasonable doubt into the minds of the jury as to whether you were “impaired” or “drunk” at the time that you were stopped.
You may not be “innocent.” You had something to drink.
But you are “not guilty” under the legal definition of a DWI under New York Law.
Need help with a criminal case?
Contact Scott Russell Law to get the help you need. Get an experienced criminal attorney on your side today!