Many who watch courtroom dramas or police shows hear “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” It is a common term but often essential to proving one’s innocence. The prosecution has the burden of proof on this matter, and it’s the defense attorney’s job to establish reasonable doubt.
4 common approaches
Each case has specific details that make or break it, but here are five starting points that a skilled lawyer can use when preparing a defense:
- Flaws in the argument: The prosecution’s charges involve various elements. Flaws to any one of those arguments can imply reasonable doubt.
- Contradictory evidence: The prosecution may present evidence, but the defense has equal standing to offer additional or contradictory evidence that calls the case into question. It could be an alibi, evidence that someone else committed the crime, or proof that it did not occur.
- Challenging the witness: Cross-examining a witness to get the exact details of their account can prompt them to contradict themselves, which can discredit their testimony. Defense attorneys can also argue that the witness has much to gain from their testimony, has a history of deceit or generally is not a reliable witness.
- Evidence is inadmissible: Gathering evidence without violating constitutional rights is essential. Anything illegally gathered is unacceptable in court, seriously damaging the prosecution’s case.
Many cases never go to trial
Establishing reasonable doubt is essential to most courtroom defenses, but the defense attorney goes to work before the trial. During their preparation, they may collect enough evidence to:
- Get the prosecution to drop the charges.
- File a motion to have the charges dropped.
- Negotiate a plea bargain for a lesser sentence.
A proactive approach is always best
Some tend to put things off. Maybe they don’t think the charges are valid, or they know it will be difficult. Still, it is essential to be proactive in building a solid defense that refutes the prosecution’s argument and sparks questions about reasonable doubt. It is always best to give the defense attorney as much time as possible to build the best case possible.