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Orland Park criminal defense lawyer, criminal trial, sexual assault, presumption of innocence, Taking the FifthThe most basic principle of the criminal justice system in Illinois is the presumption of innocence. Whether you are charged with a DUI, sexual assault, or murder, state law provides that “[e]very person is presumed innocent until proved guilty.” In any criminal trial, the burden is therefore on the prosecution to establish the defendant's guilt beyond a “reasonable doubt.”

Can You Be Punished for “Taking the Fifth”?

It is important to understand how the burden of proof works in a criminal trial. If you are accused of a crime, you are not obligated to present any evidence in your defense. Of course, it may benefit you to do so, depending on the circumstances of the case. But at no point can a judge or jury demand that you “prove” you did not commit a crime. Aside from the fact it is difficult to prove a negative, it violates the plain language of Illinois law, which presumes the defendant's innocence.

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Orland Park criminal defense lawyer, drug convictionIf you are on trial for a violent crime, such as assault and battery, prosecutors will make every effort to discredit you in front of the jury. Should you choose to testify—and remember, the Constitution protects your right to remain silent at trial—prosecutors may look to introduce evidence of prior criminal convictions to attack your credibility.

How “Impeachment” Works in a Criminal Trial

In legal terms, this is known as “impeachment.” Illinois courts have strict rules about what kinds of information may be used to impeach a witness. For example, evidence of a witness' prior criminal conviction is admissible under the following circumstances:

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Orland Park criminal defense lawyer, proving my innocenceAlthough television legal dramas might lead you to think the criminal justice system is infallible—the heroic police and prosecution always manage to catch the clearly guilty defendant—the reality is there are many people in Illinois sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit. In fact, the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan reports 195 wrongful convictions in Illinois—most of them from Cook County—have been identified and overturned since 1989.

Illinois Man Exonerated After Years in Jail

Defendants in sexual assault cases are especially vulnerable to false convictions based solely on the testimony of an unreliable accuser. An Illinois appeals court recently looked at whether or not an accuser may challenge a defendant's actual innocence even when the state concedes there was a wrongful conviction.

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National Rifle Association Illinois State Bar Association Chicago Bar Association Illinois Trial Lawyers Association Cook County Bar Association National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys The John Marshall Law School Hellenic Bar Association Will County Bar Association National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
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