When Texas prosecutors file charges against an individual, that is typically a sign that they have evidence of wrongdoing. Prosecutors do not usually invest their time and effort in cases that they have little chance of winning.
Instead, they prioritize prosecuting individuals when their chances of success are high. They therefore need compelling evidence to convince the courts that someone broke the law. The rules for criminal prosecution in Texas are very clear. They require that the prosecutor convince a judge and jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated state statutes. What exactly does that standard mean for someone facing criminal charges in Texas?
The burden of proof falls to the prosecutor
Those accused of criminal actions benefit from a presumption of innocence enshrined in Texas state law. Police officers arresting them and prosecutors bringing charges against them do not justify treating an individual as though they have committed a crime. The courts and the public must still operate under the assumption that someone is innocent.
Prosecutors must gather enough evidence to prove their allegations and also need to present that evidence in a way that convinces the courts of someone’s criminal activity. Texas state law clarifies what proof beyond a reasonable doubt actually means.
Prosecutors must not only connect an individual to a criminal incident but also need to establish that the circumstances meet every component of a specific criminal offense. For example, an incident leading to someone’s death could lead to homicide prosecution. The prosecutor would need to prove not only that the defendant caused the death of another person but that the circumstances meet each of the requirements for the type of homicide charge the state pursued.
The evidence must clearly convince judges or jurors that the defendant committed the crime and that there is no reasonable doubt about whether or not they are innocent. That standard can be quite difficult to meet. Alternative explanations and questions about the accuracy of evidence can be enough to generate a reasonable doubt about someone’s guilt.
Those who partner with criminal defense attorneys can potentially undermine the state’s case and avoid a conviction. Knowing what prosecutors must prove may give people the courage to fight back when they face criminal accusations in Texas.