Monday, July 13, 2015

THE CRIMINAL BURDEN OF PROOF IN ILLINOIS

Under our system of government, you are innocent until proven guilty.

For most crimes, this means the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of a crime, and that the defendant committed that crime. For example, if you committed a retail theft, the prosecution must prove that 1) you 2) knowingly 3) took possession of merchandise 4) from a retail store 5) with the intention of keeping it and 6) without paying.

Beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean beyond any doubt at all, it just means beyond all reasonable doubt. While this is a relatively high burden for the prosecution, the reality is that different judges and juries have very different ideas about what “beyond a reasonable doubt” really means. Some judges may find you guilty on the exact same facts that another judge might use to acquit you. That is why it is so important for your attorney to have some knowledge about the judges in a courthouse.

Some issues that arise in criminal court, however, do not require the stricter beyond a reasonable doubt standard of proof. If you are charged with open alcohol or another minor offense, the burden of proof may be the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard, in which the prosecutor need only show it was more likely than not that you committed the crime.

If the defendant brings a motion to quash an arrest or suppress the evidence that police seized during an arrest, the defendant must prove that the police acted improperly under the lower preponderance of evidence standard.

A DUI requires the state to prove you were driving or had control of a vehicle while impaired beyond a reasonable doubt. However, a petition to challenge the Secretary of State’s automatic suspension of your driving privileges is a civil proceeding, even though it is conducted in the same criminal court as your DUI. You, the defendant, now have the burden of proving by preponderance of the evidence that there were no reasonable grounds for the arrest or that the officer did not read you the warnings to motorists.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Perhaps the state cannot meet its burden of proof. An experience attorney can probe the weaknesses in the state’s case to help present your case in its most favorable light.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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