In order to find an individual guilty of a criminal offense in Fairfax the prosecution has to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of proof that exists in our criminal justice system. Furthermore, when someone is charged with a crime that has more than one element to it the prosecution has to prove each of those elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If they do not reach this reasonable doubt level, then the law requires that the judge or the jury find them not guilty.
With this standard in mind, it is important to retain an experienced and knowledgeable Fairfax criminal defense attorney who can assist in building a strong defense.
The prosecution has many tools to build an effective case against a defendant. They will go about proving their case by calling witnesses, introducing evidence, and making arguments that the witnesses and the evidence prove the defendant is in fact guilty of the crime with which they are charged.
To collect this evidence, prosecutors reach out to police officers and other law enforcement forces to investigate the facts of the individual’s case. Prosecutors also look for any kind of video or recorded evidence that they can find. If someone’s offense involves a store, the prosecution will subpoena the videos, speak with individuals who could have or did see the defendant, and get statements from them.
They will do whatever they have to as far as investigation goes, to collect as much as they can, and try to pile up the evidence against that individual.
The type of evidence which the prosecution presents at trial depends on the charges. In some cases a prosecutor will only present the police officer’s evidence because it is all they need in order to prove their case. That might include what police officer saw, did, and found.
Sometimes, though, they will need to subpoena a witness to testify about what that witness saw. Yet, in other cases, a prosecutor might call into court an expert witness to testify about what certain evidence, which was collected by a police officer or by another witness, means in the defendant’s case.
For example, the prosecution might call somebody in who will talk to the judge about what a particular performance on a field sobriety test actually means. If someone is suspected of driving while intoxicated, and is asked to take a field sobriety test, an officer might testify about whether that means the individual was intoxicated at the time they were taking it. The prosecutor might call an expert witnesses to speak about any kind of specific incident, fact, or piece of evidence which they cannot have a non-expert or the police officer effectively explain.
Additionally, the prosecutor might introduce what is called forensic evidence. This is any scientific evidence they collected included DNA, fingerprints, blood samples, alcohol concentration, and forensic test results. Any evidence that requires scientific analysis can be brought in as forensic evidence, and the prosecutor will attempt to use that against the individual in court.
The prosecution has to convince the fact-finder. The fact-finder is the individual or group of individuals who the prosecution is going to have to persuade beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual is guilty of the charge or charges. The fact-finder is different depending on the type of case a person has. Misdemeanor cases are heard in General District Court, and the first time at trial the fact-finder is a judge.
If the case is a misdemeanor case which is being appealed, sometimes it will be a judge whom the prosecution is trying to convince, but sometimes it will be a jury. This is because on the misdemeanor appeal the individual has the right to have a jury hear their case. In a felony case, the fact-finder from the outset of trial can be the judge or can be a jury, depending on what the or the prosecution wants. In a felony case, both the defendant and the prosecution have the right in Fairfax to have the case decided by a jury.