Who Has the Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases?

In a criminal trial, the burden of proof always falls on the government—prosecution—who must prove criminal charges against a defendant. In the United States, a defendant is always presumed innocent under any and all circumstances until found guilty under the Constitution’s 5th and 14th Amendment protections of due process.

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Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney Explains the Burden of Proof

For an individual to be found guilty in a criminal court, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury or, in a bench trial, the judge, that the defendant is guilty of the alleged crime(s). The defense is required to prove absolutely nothing if it chooses not to. However, you really don’t want a lawyer who isn’t willing to speak on your behalf. For more information, check out our blog: Tips for Finding the Right Colorado Criminal Lawyer for You.

In a criminal court trial, both the prosecutor and criminal defense attorney must follow evidentiary standards—rules regarding the production of evidence—for the burden of proof.

Though the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the prosecution’s goal is to overcome the defendant’s presumption of innocence.

The government alone is responsible for proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to win a guilty verdict through argument and evidence.

Colorado Evidentiary Rules for Prosecution

According to evidentiary rules, the government is permitted to produce evidence that may include eyewitness accounts and testimony, photographs, videos, weapons, fingerprints, shoe prints, tire marks, tool impressions, hair, fiber, bodily fluids, DNA, police interviews, and observations, blood analysis, circumstantial information where relevant and more.

The defense can object to the presentation of certain evidence, and a judge will decide whether to allow the evidence.

Colorado Evidentiary Rules for Defense

After the prosecution has finished presenting its case, the defense is then permitted to produce evidence and testimony that disputes or rebuts the prosecutor’s argument and evidence if they so choose. In the case that they do, the defense goal is to show a jury or judge that there is a reason to doubt the government’s allegations.

However, the defense is not required to put forth any evidence or arguments on behalf of their client.

For instance, if the prosecution alleges the defendant committed a robbery, it’s not the defense attorney’s responsibility to prove where their client was at the time of the robbery, whether they were there at all, or why they were there if they were.

Burden of Proof Summary

In summary, the prosecution’s evidence must overcome the defendant’s presumption of innocence. These due process protections are in place to punish the guilty, not the innocent. If the prosecution fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant’s alleged guilt and even a slight chance exists that the defendant is innocent, the case most likely lacks convincing and credible evidence, and the defendant should be acquitted. 

For more information about the burden of proof and how to protect your rights in a criminal court proceeding, contact Denver criminal defense attorney Jeff Weeden at WeedenLaw at 720.307.4330 today. Calls are accepted 24/7. Inmates may call collect, and jail interviews are possible under certain circumstances.

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