Evidence and Standards of Proof in Leesburg Criminal Cases
Below, a Leesburg criminal lawyer discusses what prosecutors have to prove in court, as well as the constitutional issues that arise in a criminal case. If you are facing criminal charges in Leesburg, contact our law offices for a free initial consultation of your case. An attorney can guide you through your court proceedings and advocate for your rights in court.
In order to secure a conviction, the Commonwealth’s Attorney will have to prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt. It doesn’t mean that they must exclude all doubts but it just means doubts that are reasonable.
For example, the “dog ate my homework” defense is not a reasonable doubt but, depending on the circumstances of your evidence, the fact that your homework was taken by someone else who had the opportunity, motive and then was later charged with taking your homework is a defense. Clearly, this is an outlandish example, however, it works to illustrate the basic difference between doubt and reasonable doubt. The Commonwealth needs to prove each and every element beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction. If they are not able to meet the burden of proof, then the case must be dismissed.
Leesburg Prosecution and Proving Their Case
The prosecution proves their case through the presentation of evidence. Depending on the type of case, this evidence may be offered through documentation, forensic evidence, testimony, scientific evidence or circumstantial evidence.
In general, the prosecution must convince the fact finder. The fact finder can vary depending on the trial. In the general district court or in a circuit court bench trial, the fact finder is the judge and the judge must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. In case of circuit court jury trial, the prosecutor must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous verdict of the jury. Virginia requires unanimous verdicts to make a finding of guilt.
Constitutional Issues in Leesburg Criminal Cases
Constitutional issues are at play every day in Leesburg criminal cases. Most common constitutional issues that arise are someone’s Fourth Amendment Rights, also known as the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.
If your constitutional rights are violated, either the search of your person, your vehicle, your home or other manner, then you may be able to exclude any evidences seized as a result of constitutional violations. This is typically done through what is called a “motion to suppress.” The motion to suppress stricken the fact finder from considering any evidence that is obtained from the defendant violating after the constitutional rights. If the motion to suppress is granted, the offending evidence will be stricken from the case and you may have the charges reduced or dismissed.