What is Reasonable Doubt in a Criminal Case in Arizona?
You may have heard, both in real life and in movies, that a person must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to be convicted of a crime. Until the very end of the criminal case, any defendant is presumed to be innocent and enjoys the benefit of doubt. This is a cornerstone concept in the US justice system, and enshrined in Arizona Revised Statutes 13-115.
But what exactly does the concept of reasonable doubt mean? And how can a criminal defense Arizona law attorney use it to defend you?
First of all, let us start with the definition of reasonable doubt. It means that, in order to pronounce a guilty verdict, a standard of proof must be exceeded. In other words, the evidence presented in the criminal case must be sufficient to persuade any rational person that the defendant’s guilt is a fact.
Burden of Proof: Reasonable Doubt Plays a Key Role in Your Defense
Let us now look at the bigger picture in a criminal case. When faced with criminal charges, a defendant carries the burden of proof. According to Arizona Revised Statutes 13-205, “a defendant shall prove any affirmative defense raised by a preponderance of evidence”.
The burden of proof consists of several elements. These are
Reasonable suspicion, as defined by the US Supreme Court, represents “the sort of common-sense conclusion about human behavior upon which practical people . . . are entitled to rely.” In many traffic related offenses, officers cite as reasonable suspicion a circumstance that does not really meet the above mentioned criteria.
Relying on a “guess” or “gut instinct” does not represent reasonable suspicion and an astute criminal defense Arizona law attorney can cast doubt on it.
If a reasonable person believes that a crime is in progress or is about to take place, then they have probable cause to alert law enforcement officers and the latter have grounds to arrest someone.
Proving probable cause requires actual facts that the officer knew before operating the arrest, not obtained subsequent to it. Under criminal defense Arizona law, any evidence obtained during a search that lacks probable cause cannot be accepted in court.
Preponderance of Evidence
Casting reasonable doubt on criminal charges can be effected by the preponderance of the evidence. This concept of criminal defense Arizona law means that whatever legal proposition a party makes, it is more likely true than not.
This is where a skilled criminal defense lawyer makes the difference in a case. In-depth knowledge of Arizona law and previous experience in similar cases allow attorneys to:
- Seek evidence in your favor
- Counter evidence against you
- Create a narrative of the events that helps your case.
Ignorance Will Not Help Your Case
In some situations, defendants believe they can cast reasonable doubt on the charges by claiming that they did not know that they were breaking the law. Unfortunately, this type of defense is not acceptable, with the exception of a few exceptions.
Thus, according to Arizona Revised Statutes 13-204, ignorance or mistake as to a matter of law does not relieve a person of criminal responsibility.
Leave Your Defense in the Hands of a Capable Criminal Defense Arizona Law Attorney
Watching crime TV and reading law books as a layman does not represent proper training to represent yourself in court. The law is complex and the prosecution relies on trained and skilled individuals to secure your conviction.
No matter how simple your case may appear, do not attempt to cast reasonable doubt on the charges on your own. Contact us as soon as possible and we will assign an experienced criminal defense Arizona law attorney to represent you.