Until Proven Innocent header

Until Proven Innocent

There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.
Mahatma Gandhi
At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.

Guilt, innocence, truth, justice. We started this website with lofty goals of dissecting and discussing these noteworthy topics. Then we realized that it's all been done before, by people a lot smarter and wiser than us! So now we just dedicate our modest little piece of the web to any old topics we find interesting. We hope you find our material of interest as well!


Access to Justice: A Right

Access to justice refers to the ability of people to seek and obtain a remedy through formal or informal institutions of justice, and in conformity with human rights standards

Access to justice intersects with human rights in a number of ways. First, it is itself a fundamental human right as set out in Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”

justice for all

Secondly, it is a means to protect and enjoy other rights. Thirdly, for the right to access to justice to be truly enjoyed, a number of other human rights must also be protected, such as the right to information, the right to physical safety, the right to confidentiality and the right to privacy.

A fair and efficient system for providing justice is crucial to the proper functioning of society. Not only does it hold individuals, including state officials, accountable for their actions, but it also sets norms of behavior for other citizens. This system must be available the most disadvantaged.

Promoting access to justice for trafficked persons is crucial because they are often in a specially disadvantaged and vulnerable position in society. Not only are they usually in vulnerable situations when they are trafficked, but they then find themselves in countries where often they do not know the language and are without legal status. In addition, they have suffered a string of human rights violations throughout the trafficking process, from deception or coercion at the origin point to serious exploitation and abuse at the destination point.

Ideally, the justice process underscores the dignity of the person, as well as being a step for individuals to move on with their lives. Unfortunately, in reality the system is sometimes used to entrench power imbalances and reinforce stigma and gender discrimination. It is the task of all of us to challenge this.

Basic Trial Defenses From Guilt

Criminal laws are created to punish offenders who commit crimes as well as deter others from carrying out such actions. Even if you have violated a criminal law does not automatically mean you are guilty of a crime. Various defenses may be used to excuse criminal behavior. The specifics of these defenses differ markedly from state to state however the fundamental aspects are the same. You'll also want to perform some investigation about particular areas of law, such as search and seizure.

Claiming You Acted Under Duress

Duress translates to the notion that you were threatened into carrying out a crime. Duress can be asserted as a defense to all crimes apart from murder. To ascertain the defense of duress, you must first prove that there was an immediate threat of death or substantial injury to yourself or some other person. Second, you have to show that you realistically feared the threat would be applied if you would not commit the crime. The final element of the defense is that you need to show you had no plausible opportunity to get out of the situation.

You Can Claim You Made a Mistake

The majority of criminal laws mandate that a defendant purposely commit a wrongful action. If you can provide evidence that you behaved erroneously, you may use that as a defense. For instance, assume you have picked up three wooden supports from a construction site, thinking that they have been digarded as worthless. You are charged with theft. Your erroneous thinking that the boards had been disposed of is a defense since you did not mean to steal them.

You Can Change Your Mind Concerning a Crime

Abandonment is a defense to the crimes of conspiracy and attempt. A conspiracy is an arrangement between two or more people to commit a crime. To defend against conspiracy, you have to show that you changed your mind about carrying out the crime, and you also need to show that you made a reasonable effort to stop the other parties from performing the crime.

The crime of “attempt” takes place if you purposely try to carry out a criminal offense but fail to accomplish the action. You need to exhibit that you stopped attempting to commit the crime completely rather than just postponing the action. You need to additionally exhibit that your decision was voluntary. For instance, if you try to rob a bank but flee the scene when law enforcement arrive, you failed to cease the robbery voluntarily – you discontinued only because the police arrived.

You Can Plead Insanity As a Defense

If you were insane at the time you carried out a crime, you could be declared not guilty of the crime in some states. In other states, you could be found guilty but insane. You would be sentenced to prison, but you would initially be sent to a hospital to be treated for the mental affliction.

In some states, you will be viewed as legally insane if you could not understand what you were doing or if you understood, but did not realize that your actions were wrong. In other states, you are legally insane if you were unable to prevent yourself from committing the crime. Some states enable you to plead insanity if you had a mental disorder during the time of the crime and that disorder prompted you to commit the crime.

A Criminal Lawyer Can Assist You

The law related to defenses which you can use when accused of a crime is complex. Additionally, the circumstances of every case are unique. This article provides a limited, overall summary of the subject. To get more in depth, specific information, please speak to a a criminal attorney. Though this post gives fundamental information in regards to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the lawful limitations of searches and seizures by authorities, it should not be regarded as legal advice. For any legal advice you should confer with a lawyer.

American Justice: Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Criminal law relates to laws passed by the United States whose violation constitutes a crime which can result in fines, imprisonment...or even death. Unlike civil law in which private citizens utilize the courts to seek redress or enforce their rights, a criminal trial involves either the Federal government or the State government seeking to obtain a guilty verdict against an individual. It is not individuals using the system but the government itself using the legal system to seek to enforce the laws and punish the individual to protect society.

Both the Federal government and the various states all have their own criminal statutes thus criminal trials can occur in either forum depending on which law is violated. By far most criminal trials involve state laws since the Federal government is restricted in its jurisdiction to particular types of crimes. Well over ninety percent of all criminal trials occur in state courts.

Americans are enormously proud and occasionally exasperated by their complex, expensive, and powerful system of criminal law which goes to tremendous lengths to protect the individual rights of the accused. Most people rightly consider the system as slanted towards ensuring the rights of the person charged with numerous safeguards, chief of which is the requirement that the person is presumed innocent until the government meets the highest burden of proof known in American law: proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a moral certainty. Further, most systems of American criminal law also require a unanimous verdict by the jury to convict. No system of law in the world imposes such a tremendous burden on the State to meet before it can imprison or otherwise punish a citizen accused of a crime.

dove of peace

Yet, the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of criminal trials result in verdicts of guilty. And it is a fact that the recent DNA scientific advances which allowed new methods to verify if convicted murderers were guilty have shown that at least thirty percent and perhaps as much as fifty percent of those convicted and waiting on "death row" for execution were innocent...to the point where the governors of several states have refused to allow further executions until it is determined why this remarkable system seems to have failed.

It would appear that despite these remarkable safeguards to protect the accused, the system seems to be resulting in far more guilty verdicts than justified. In the last section of this article we will discuss the economic aspects of the American criminal law system that may explain the perhaps inappropriate level of guilty verdicts: put simply, the system runs on money and the average accused is poor, thus unable to effectively utilize the various safeguards available. A wag put it well: "if you have money, it is the fairest system in the world."

It is an oddity of the American system of political freedom that the one class of persons who are alone capable of enforcing most of the precious Bill of Rights for all American citizens...are those accused of crime! If one reads the Bill of Rights-those first critical ten Amendments to the United States Constitution that provide the most basic rights that American most treasure...one soon discovers that most of them provide for procedures and protections available for Americans should they be accused of crime. Thus the right to trial by jury; to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure; for a prompt and speedy public trial; to not be forced to incriminate oneself; to not be forced to confess; for representation by legal counsel at public expense if necessary, etc. etc. are all contained in the Bill of Rights and those who are charged with the responsibility for making sure the government adheres to these rights are those actually accused of crime since only they have the right to go to court to argue that the government is violating the Bill of Rights.

Thus it may be argued that criminal attorneys and those accused of crime perform the most important legal tasks that exist in our system of law; the protection of the very rights that each American holds most dear. And when one thinks of the most famous trials and attorneys in America, one soon realizes that most of the trials that preoccupy world public opinion are not the civil trials involving money...but the criminal trials involving guilt and innocence, freedom or imprisonment. The O.J. Simpson trial was seen daily around the world by tens of millions who watched as he was found not guilty; but the subsequent civil trial that resulted in a multi million dollar verdict against O. J. Simpson was not only ignored by most, but was completely unknown to most of the world.

Each year three or four famous trials catch the public eye and invariably most of them are criminal trials in which the State, represented by a district attorney, or, if the federal government is involved a United States attorney seeks to obtain a verdict against an individual, usually represented by private counsel. If the individual is incapable of hiring his own private counsel, the State must provide free legal counsel, normally called the public defender. While most cases are not noted by the public, all must be open to the public and some catch the public attention and are followed in the press or even on television.

Perhaps it is the contest between the richest government in the world versus the individual citizen that is intriguing; perhaps it is the titillation of crime and the thrill of the chase and the drama of the court. Whatever the reason, criminal trials in the United States are contests of remarkable interest to the entire world and the complex and expensive system of justice used is both admired and feared around the world. It is a commonplace that criminals abroad will do almost anything to avoid trial in the United States, knowing that the prosecutors are among the best in the world, the court normally incorruptible, and the system relentless in its processes. Equally important, those wrongly accused understand that it is in the American system of justice that one has the most objective system to determine guilt or innocence, with the accused having the right to confront and cross examine the accusers before a jury of impartial citizens.