In Manassas criminal cases, the prosecution, or State, has the burden of proof. It is their job to prove that the defendants are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to establish a successful prosecution. Below, a Manassas criminal lawyer discusses in detail what the prosecution needs in order to generate a guilty verdict against a defendant. For more information about criminal cases in Manassas, Virginia, call today and schedule a consultation.
What precisely the prosecution has to prove in court will vary depending on the charges against the individual. In general, there are two kinds of cases that come before the courts and these cases have different kinds of proof. In the typical case, the prosecution is going to have to prove that the defendant voluntarily committed some criminal act and did it with some kind of intent. For example, it could be with an intent to steal or an intent to do bodily harm or it could be something else like a reckless intent. If the prosecution can prove both of those things as well as any other elements required to be proven in that particular offense, all beyond a reasonable doubt, the individual will be found guilty.
There are also offenses in Virginia that are called strict liability offenses. A strict liability offense is where a person is guilty simply for committing the act regardless of whether they had any intention to commit the act.
For example, serious traffic offenses like DUI, reckless driving by speed or reckless driving by accident are situations where a certain action is taken regardless of whether the person intended the act or intended the outcome. If the person committed the act they can be found guilty. The Commonwealth does not have to prove that there is any particular intent behind the action.
The prosecution goes about collecting evidence primarily through the police and the resources at the police officers’ or police departments’ disposal. Evidence can include witness testimony, which can include the police officer, witnesses to a crime, or even people to whom the defendant has made statements. It can also include forensic evidence such as fingerprints, ballistics, DNA tests or chemical analysis, such as in drug cases. In certain kinds of cases, the Commonwealth will present expert witnesses to testify on certain issues.
For example, any time the Commonwealth presents evidence of a chemical analysis it must utilize an expert witness in order to get the results of that test into evidence. The same thing is true for DNA analysis or ballistics analysis.
The prosecution has to convince either the judge or the jury depending on what kind of case it is. All misdemeanor cases are heard by a judge so any time a misdemeanor case is being tried, the prosecution has the burden of convincing the judge, who is the trier of fact in the case. For felony charges where either the defendant or the Commonwealth has invoked its right to have the matter heard by a jury, then the Commonwealth’s burden will be to persuade the jury that each of the elements of the crime charged has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
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