How To Prove Your Innocence Before A Criminal Case Goes To Trial
A person who has been charged with a crime may think the cops have arrested them under false pretenses or based on faulty evidence. Fortunately, the criminal law system provides two key tools for proving the state's case isn't strong enough to gain a conviction in court. Typically, a criminal law attorney will follow these steps if they believe they can disprove the state's case against a client.
Questioning the Charges
Your first opportunity to potentially disprove the charges will come at arraignment. In criminal law, the arraignment hearing is a chance to learn what the charges are. Likewise, your criminal law attorney can raise questions about why the state brought the case. If the judge believes there are concerns, they can either address them then and there or schedule a follow-up hearing. Potentially, the judge may agree and dismiss at least some of the charges.
Usually, dismissals at this stage fall into one of two categories. Some cases fall apart because the state's legal logic is flawed. If a defendant asserts a self-defense claim and the judge considers it valid, for example, the case could fall apart. Secondly, some cases collapse because the facts aren't there to support wasting the court's time with a trial. If the police misidentified the defendant as a perpetrator who has since ended up in custody, for example, that is a solid basis for possibly dismissing a case.
If you didn't convince the judge during the initial hearings, your next chance at dismissing the case is during the discovery process. Criminal law requires the state to disclose all the evidence it might use at trial. This allows you a fair chance to assess the evidence without being ambushed in front of a jury.
A key piece of evidence could be flawed. Suppose the police collected DNA from a crime scene and a lab matched it to you. However, a lab technician broke the chain of custody by moving around several samples without cataloging what they did. Your lawyer has a right to ask the court to exclude the evidence from trial. If the judge excludes an important enough piece of evidence, the prosecution may drop the case.
Similarly, the state must disclose its witness list during discovery. Your attorney can interview the witnesses and learn what they told the police. If the witness statements don't add up, your attorney can bring this to the court's attention, too. Likewise, if a key witness changes their testimony or says something different than what the police claim, you may be able to exclude the witness.
For more information, contact a criminal law attorney.