What is the Difference Between Being "Charged" and Being "Convicted"?

Oftentimes people confuse being charged with being convicted. Some believe (mistakenly) that once a person is charged with a crime they are guilty; they follow the overly-simple maxim of "where there is smoke there is fire." These people make for lousy jurors. Being charged with a crime merely means that the government has formally accused a person of a crime. A person charged with a crime is, by law, Innocent. Being convicted of a crime means that the person has plead guilty or has been found guilty after trial. A person convicted of a crime is, by law, Guilty.

Of all the questions asked by my clients, perhaps the most frequent is some variation of: "how can they even charge me with [insert crime here]?" My answer is as follows: it is very easy to charge someone with a crime, the government needs very little evidence to do so. That amount of evidence is referred to as 'Probable Cause.' Fortunately, the government needs significantly more evidence to convict someone of a crime. That amount of evidence is 'Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.' This is referred to as the Burden of Proof. The burden of proof is the exclusive province of the government. A defendant has no obligation to offer evidence.

So, how much evidence is needed to prove someone guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt? There is no direct answer to that. The jury must decide, based only on the evidence presented at trial, whether the government has proven its case. In Massachusetts, Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt requires that the jury have "an abiding conviction to a moral certainty" that the allegation against the individual is true.

So, if you are charged with a crime, remember, you are innocent and that the burden of proof is on the government. Contact Attorney Henry Fasoldt if you have been charged with a crime.

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