Can a Person Be Convicted Without Evidence?

Categories: criminal defense

convicted without evidence

Can a person be convicted without evidence? The simple answer is, “no.” You cannot be convicted of a crime without evidence. You cannot be convicted of a state crime. You cannot be convicted of a federal crime. If there is no evidence against you, under the law, it simply is not possible for the prosecutor’s office to obtain a conviction at trial.

The Prosecution’s Burden of Proof in Criminal Trials

The reason for this becomes clear when you understand the “burden of proof” that applies in criminal cases. In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Let’s look at this in a little more detail:

  • “The prosecution must prove…” – In a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proof. Suppose both the defense and the prosecution go into the courtroom and say nothing – nothing at all. Who wins? The answer is clear: The defense. Since it is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant committed the crime alleged, if the prosecution does not provide any proof (in the form of evidence), the case must be dismissed.
  • “…beyond a reasonable doubt.” – Not only must the prosecution introduce evidence of guilt, it must prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the prosecution presents some evidence, but not enough to clearly prove that the defendant committed the crime, the jury should find the defendant not guilty.

What Is “Evidence?”

A lot of the confusion about evidence in criminal cases stems from a lack of clear understanding of what constitutes “evidence.” To many people, evidence means physical evidence – a literal smoking gun or drugs in the possession of someone caught red-handed. But, in reality, the definition of “evidence” is much broader.

What are some examples of things that can be used as evidence in a criminal trial? Common forms of evidence include:

  • Physical evidence – As suggested above, physical evidence includes any item linking a person to a crime. Along with weapons and drugs, other forms of physical evidence could include an assault victim’s injuries, drug paraphernalia, or a computer in an internet crime investigation.
  • Chemical evidence – If you are being prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI), the results of your breath, urine, or blood test may be admissible as evidence at trial.
  • Witness testimony – If someone saw you commit a crime, his or her testimony would be considered evidence against you.
  • Confessions – Any self-incriminating statements that you make to the police may be admissible as evidence, as well.
  • Circumstantial evidence – Were you at the scene of the crime when the crime occurred? If so, the prosecution may be able to use this as circumstantial evidence that you were involved.
  • Electronic evidence –  In computer crime, domestic violence and certain other types of cases, text messages, emails, computer files, and other types of electronic records may be admissible as evidence, as well.

Keep in mind that whether something constitutes evidence and whether that evidence is admissible at trial are two completely separate questions. If the police obtained evidence against you in violation of your Constitutional rights, you may be entitled to have that evidence deemed inadmissible at trial.

Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.

Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.

Criminal Defense Lawyers in Wausau, WI

If you have been charged with a crime in Wausau, it is important that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. To speak with a defense lawyer at Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C. in confidence, call (715) 842-2291 or contact us online today.