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Conviction Definition

A conviction is the outcome of a trial when a criminal defendant is determined to be guilty. In order to have a successful conviction, it must be determined beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. If there is a jury trial, there is a certain number of jurors that are required to convict a defendant, which varies depending on the state. 

Why Are Criminal Trials Strictly Protected in the United States? 

In order to properly understand the criminal justice system in the United States, it is important to comprehend the purpose of the Founding Fathers when they drafted the United States Constitution. The Founding Fathers were escaping Europe, where there were criminal trials without justice. The injustice that the Founding Fathers saw in Europe is why the idea of proving "beyond a reasonable doubt" that a defendant was guilty became paramount. The Founding Fathers drafted this idea into the United States Constitution in order to protect the rights of the accused, and it is one of the fundamental principles integrated into the criminal justice system today. 

What Does Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Mean? 

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt means that the highest level of certainty is required to convict a defendant. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt requires there to be more proof than the next lowest standard "clear and convincing evidence." Clear and convincing evidence means that there is a high probability of the truth of facts that are offered as proof are correct. In order to meet the threshold of clear and convincing, the evidence must be so clear to leave no substantial doubt that a defendant is guilty. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt must be above the clear and convincing evidence standard so that there is no question that a defendant is guilty so that their constitutional rights are protected. In some cases, there are errors when it comes to protecting a defendant's constitutional rights. Defendants need to be aware of what their constitutional rights are in order to avoid unnecessary jail time or fines. 

Can Convictions Be Overturned? 

Once a defendant is convicted in the United States, it is challenging to overturn a conviction. Defendants who are unsatisfied with the results of their trial should assess whether they would like to appeal their conviction. Appeals are not a simple process, and it is wise to decide whether appealing the conviction is worth the time and overall expense. If the defendant does not have substantial resources, and constitutional issues are surrounding their case, it is possible for certain non-profits in the legal sector to take their appellate case pro bono. Any defendant before appealing, is encouraged to research various options to lower their legal fees through non-profit organizations. 

Should Defendants Have an Attorney if They May Be Convicted? 

Many defendants are hesitant to seek out legal assistance for their court cases because they are fearful of how much lawyers cost per billable hour. Making this mistake could cost them several years in jail or substantial fines if they are not careful. In criminal cases, the United States Constitution requires that all defendants have access to an attorney regardless of their financial circumstances. In some cases, defendants who have more financial resources may opt to pay an attorney selected for their particular skill set. In either case, it is essential that defendants exercise their constitutional right to have an attorney to represent them in their criminal case. Having a conviction on an individual's record is not something that is easily erased. Convictions have the power to impact an individual's reputation negatively and also their long-term employment prospects. Having an attorney represent a defendant's case is the best possible strategy to have a clear path to the most successful outcome possible. 

Conviction Glossary Definition

A conviction occurs when a defendant is declared to be guilty. Convictions are not easy to overturn and are not to be taken lightly. In the United States, lawyers must prove that defendants are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to avoid infringing on any defendant's constitutional rights. The United States operates on the ideals that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and it is the burden of the prosecutor to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.