General Information about Criminal Charges


 Many people charged with crimes feel that the best course is to simply plead guilty at the outset, and to throw themselves to the "mercy" of the court. They just want to get the matter over with, and trust that the judge and prosecutor will realize that their matter is relatively insignificant. However, many criminal convictions have consequences of which neither the judge nor prosecutor will advise you. In addition, you may have defenses of which you are not aware, or, your constitutional rights may have been violated in the course of the investigation of your case which may render some or all of the evidence against you inadmissible in court.

Most importantly, in all criminal cases, an individual has a right to the presumption of innocence and the case against him or her must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt." In this regard, the standard instruction given to all California juries in criminal cases reads as follows:

A defendant in a criminal action is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved, and in case of a reasonable doubt whether [his] [her] guilt is satisfactorily shown, [he] [she] is entitled to a verdict of not guilty. This presumption places upon the People the burden of proving [him] [her] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Reasonable doubt is defined as follows: it is not a mere possible doubt; because everything relating to human affairs is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of the case which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of the jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge. (CALJIC 2.90 [emphasis added].).



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Copyright 1999, Sandy Feinland, Esq.  Last modified: June 9, 2000


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