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Presumption of innocence
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Presumption of innocence

Presumption of innocence is an essential right that the accused enjoys in criminal trials in all countries respecting human rights. It states that the accused is presumed to be innocent until it has been declared guilty by a court. The burden of proof is thus on the prosecution, which has to convince the court of the guilt of the accused.
Conversely, in many authoritarian regimes, the prosecution case is, in practice, believed by default unless the accused can prove he is innocent — presumption of guilt.

Table of contents
1 A fundamental right
2 The presumption of innocence in practice
3 External links

A fundamental right

This right is so important in modern democracies that many have explicitly included it in their legal codes and constitutions:

The presumption of innocence in practice

Few systems have had,
de jure, presumption of guilt. Accusations of presumption of guilt generally do not denote an actual legal presumption of guilt, but rather some failures in ensuring that suspects are treated well and are offered good defense conditions. Typical infringements follow: Guaranteeing the presumption of innocence extends beyond the judicial system. For instance, in many countries journalistic codes of ethics state that journalists should refrain from referring to suspects as though their guilt was certain. Also, while journalists may refer to suspects as "suspects" or "defendants", publishing of the prosecution's case without proper defense argumentation may in practice constitute presumption of guilt. Publishing a roster of arrested suspects may constitue undeserved punishment for them, since it in practices ruins the reputation of those people without an actual conviction.

Modern practices aimed at curing social ills may run against presumption of innocence. Some civil rights activists feel that pre-employment drug testing, while legal, violates this principle, as potential employees are presumed to users of illegal drugs, and must prove themselves innocent via the test. Similarly, critics argue that some dispositions of laws against sexual harassment or racial discrimination show a presumption of guilt. These dispositions were meant to ease the burden of proof on the victim, since in practice harassment or discrimination practices are hard to prove.

A commonly held myth is that in civil law or inquisitorial justice systems, the accused does not enjoy presumption of innocence. This is simply false. This myth comes in large part because in civil law nations, an investigating magistrate supervises police investigations. However the magistrate does not determine innocence or guilt and functions much as a grand jury does in common law nations.

External links