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Facing Criminal Charges in Virginia? Call Us at (540) 343-9349

Innocent Unless Proven Guilty

Our legal system places the burden of proof in a criminal matter on the prosecution, who essentially represents the party claiming that the offense has occurred.  What does this mean if you have been charged with a crime? It means that the government must be able to convince the judge or a jury that you have, beyond a reasonable doubt, committed the crime; otherwise, you will be acquitted.

With that said, “the phrase innocent unless proven guilty,” is actually somewhat misleading.  If you’ve been arrested, the State has already determined that there was probable cause to detain you.  If you were truly presumed innocent then there would be no reason to hold you in jail against your will. The fact is that the State has already started building a case against you, and it’s even possible that at the time of your arrest the amount of evidence that has been obtained is substantial enough to prove guilt. This is where the processes and details of the law are incredibly important.  Each person charged with a crime has the right to a fair trial and the right to be represented by an attorney.  Also, the government must follow certain procedures in order for evidence to be admissible in court. For both of these reasons it is paramount to seek the guidance of an experience criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible.

Your Rights

The 4th Amendment:
The 4th Amendment requires that probable cause exist for any search or seizure.  This clause has a wide range of applications and implications in a criminal matter, one of the most important being that evidence obtained via search without probable cause cannot be used against you.  In search situations involving a residence or other building, a judicial officer must deem whether probable cause exists, and if so, they must issue a search warrant before law enforcement may search the premise. Motor vehicles, however, do not follow the same guidelines.  For example, If you are pulled over for speeding and the officer detects a scent of marijuana coming from your vehicle then that officer has probably cause to believe that there is marijuana in your vehicle.  The officer is then able to search your car without a warrant.

The 5th Amendment:
The 5th amendment is one of the most often cited amendments and states that “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”  Not only does this amendment allow you to avoid self-incrimination in court, but it also gives you the right to remain silent if you are taken into custody.  We advise all of our clients to enact this right when interacting with law enforcement.  Even if you know you are completely innocent and are trying to be helpful it is in your best interest to remain silent and state that you wish to speak to a lawyer. You simply should not provide any evidence.  The language you use in invoking this right is crucial.  You should state clearly, “I do not want to talk to you.  I want a lawyer.”

The 6th Amendment:
The 6th amendment states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”  While all of these rights are important, we find the right to counsel to be most important in leveling the playing field to maintain your freedom.  The government enjoys the privilege of having full time law enforcement and attorneys working on their behalf to convict those charged with an offense.  You are certainly at a disadvantage if you try to combat their offense with only your personal resources. We encourage anyone who has been charged with a crime to take advantage of this right afforded by the Constitution.