If you have been accused of a criminal offense in Virginia here’s what you should know about what the prosecution needs to prove in court. To learn more or to seek experienced legal representation schedule a free consultation with a Virginia criminal lawyer today.
What Does The Prosecution Have to Prove in Court?
What the prosecution has to prove in court will vary by charge, but in every case the prosecution has to prove every element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Elements are simply different components of a criminal charge or different factors that the prosecution must prove and this can be everything from the identity of the accused to the location of the crime.
It typically involves proving that some act occurred and that act occurred with some specific state of mind whether it is that it was intentionally done or knowingly done or recklessly done. Many charges in Virginia, and in fact most charges in Virginia, have the elements of the crime set out in the Virginia code, so the attorney will need to look very carefully at statute to determine what the prosecutor has to prove and this is an area where an experienced practitioner can bring a lot of value to a case.
Contrary to what people might imagine, laws are not perfectly written and they don’t always say what one might assume they say. Experienced defense counsel who has given a lot of thought and research and study to the elements of an offense can really make a lot of headway for their client by demonstrating that the prosecution has not proved some element of their case.
Importantly, every single element of the crime has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Another way that we say that is that the prosecution has to exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. It is intended to be a high bar, and it should be a high bar. It should be difficult for them get a conviction and, of course, my job is to make that as difficult as possible for them to do.
Are There Any Charges That Virginia Prosecutors Are Trying to Crack Down And Prosecute Heavily?
Yes. Prosecutors in Virginia are called commonwealth’s attorneys and the head commonwealth’s attorney in every office is an elected official. They’re elected by the people who live either in that city or in that county. And so, there is always a political component to what prosecutors and law enforcement in any particular locality are focused on.
In my experience, the things that are most frequently focused on are the ones that affect public safety. There is often a high level of focus on alcohol-related offenses and especially DUI. Drugs are a big issue, so almost every jurisdiction of any size in Virginia will have a drug task force. In recent years there has been a much higher level of focus on internet crimes especially child pornography cases.