Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

Central Florida Criminal Lawyer

What Legal Standard Is Used To Prove A Defendant Is Guilty During A Criminal Trial?

Prosecutors must prove to the judge or jury that a defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” of committing the crime for which he or she has been accused. This legal standard is a hard one to meet. By contrast, in civil cases, a plaintiff only has to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning anything over 50%. ACentral Florida criminal defense lawyer therefore has a slightly easier task than a civil defense attorney–but only when it comes to the burden of proof that the opposing side must meet.

Because of this, judges and jurors are supposed to rule in favor of the defendant in situations where there are doubts about the meaning of the evidence. Thanks also to this burden of proof, a defendant’s Central Florida criminal defense lawyeris most often going to argue that there is reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. In other words the prosecutor has failed to sufficiently establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Am I Guaranteed A Trial By A Jury If I’m Accused Of A Crime?

For anything above a “petty offense,” defendants are guaranteed the right to a jury trial. Petty offenses are defined as those that do not carry sentences of incarceration for longer than six months. A good Central Florida criminal defense lawyerwill try to make sure that the chosen jury will be hopefully neutral, or in the best case scenario, slightly biased toward his or her client. The right to a jury trial is typically interpreted to mean a 12-person jury must arrive at a unanimous decision to either convict or acquit the defendant. However, juries can legally consist of as few as six people and still be constitutional. (Williams v. Florida, U.S. Sup. Ct, 1970.)

Florida law allows for six-person juries in noncapital cases and 12-person juries in capital cases. In most states, a jury that fails to reach a unanimous verdict is called a “hung jury.” In this type of situation, the defendant will go free unless the prosecutor decides to retry the case. Two notable exceptions to this rule occur in Oregon and Louisiana, where 12-member juries may convict or acquit on a vote of ten to two.

Why Do Defendants Often Choose Not To Testify? If I Haven’t Committed A Crime, Why Wouldn’t I Want To Take The Stand And Tell My Story?

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives every criminal defendant the right not to testify, and jurors are instructed that they cannot assume anything negative should the defendant choose to exercise that right. The reality is, of course, that some jurors do make assumptions in these cases, and they will cast their votes accordingly. As Central Florida criminal defense lawyers will attest, sometimes exercising your Fifth Amendment right to silence can be nearly as incriminating as confessing to the crime outright.

Here are some strong reasons why a Central Florida criminal defense lawyer might advise the defendant to exercise that right to remain silent in court:

  • If the defendant was previously convicted of a crime, the prosecutor can typically only bring this fact out if the defendant testifies. Existence of a previous criminal conviction can cause certain jurors to believe that the defendant must be guilty of the current crime, too.
  • If the defendant testifies, the prosecutor may very well be able to bring out other information that tarnishes the defendant’s reputation or otherwise discredits his or her testimony.
  • Some defendants simply don’t sound or look very good when speaking in public. A judge or jury may not believe a defendant who, though telling the truth, stutters, appears overly nervous, or just looks flat out disreputable.
Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

Get your questions answered - call me for your free, 20 min phone consultation (850) 423-0035