Georgia DUI Lawyer Explains GA Law On
Moral vs. Legal Guilt:
Yes, It Is Possible That A Jury Can Find A Guilty Person NOT GUILTY
Chris E. Ambrose
If I am guilty, how is it possible that 1) a prosecutor would reduce the charge, or 2) I can be found NOT GUILTY at trial?
Most people live a life based on some set of moral principles. Religion is not required for these moral principles - just a standard of right and wrong. However, there is a natural tendency to apply a moral construct to the judicial system. Although the judicial system has it roots in morality, there is a good reason it is called a legal system and not a moral system.
Criminal Proceeding Is Adversarial
A criminal proceeding is an adversarial process in which the power of the state (including highly trained prosecutors, state-funded crime labs, specialist police officers called detectives, etc.) is brought to bear to prove the guilt of a person.
Usually a criminal defendant (yes DUI is a crime) is represented by a single attorney. Cases where the playing field is leveled by a rich defendant able to hire an attorney and pay for his/her own scientific and other experts is rare. It seems the norm because that is what is covered by the media.
The State Has Power - An Accused Has Rights
Defendants in U.S. courts have rights afforded by the United States Constitution, their State's constitution, as well as state statute. Succinctly put, the state has power and a defendant has rights. Having rights is a shorthand way of saying that there is a limitation on a prosecutor's power.
In the U.S., in order for the police to search you or your property, one of three things must exist. The first is a valid search warrant, or in the case of an automobile search, the same probable cause must exist that would support a search warrant. The second is a search incident to a lawful arrest (not all arrests are lawful). Third is a defendant's consent.
To Have An Enforceable Right There Must Be A Remedy
There are several ways in which "rights" can be enforced. We could arrest or fine the police for violating rights. This avenue is impractical. The courts have crafted a remedy called the exclusionary rule. Under this rule, if your rights are violated, evidence is excluded from trial.
To explain the exclusionary rule, assume that the police search a vehicle without probable cause, without valid consent, and no legal arrest took place. The search produces marijuana. The person is obviously morally guilty.
Nevertheless, the person's rights against an unlawful search were violated. A right without a remedy is no right at all. Under the exclusionary rule, the court disallows use of the marijuana at trial. If the marijuana were the only evidence linking the person with the crime, then the case would be dismissed. Although perhaps morally guilty, the person is legally "not guilty".
Likewise, in a DUI case, there are several mistakes an officer can make that would cause the Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test results to be inadmissible. If a high Intoxilyzer test is not admissible at trial, there's a chance that the remaining evidence would be insufficient for a jury to find guilt.
Jury Instructions After Trial
Most case are settled prior to trial via a negotiated plea. If a case cannot be settled, the case proceeds to trial. At the end of trial, a judge gives instructions to the jury. Some of these instructions explain reasonable doubt. Other charges cover the credibility and impeachment of the witnesses. Still others explain the elements of the law, each of which must be proved before a finding of guilty can be had. The jury is supposed to follow all instructions as it applies the law to the facts.
A Jury Makes A Legal Determination
Criminal juries do not make moral determinations. By now you should understand that they must make legal determinations. If you understand this concept, you should also understand why there is no such thing as an innocent verdict - that would be a moral determination.
"Guilty" and "Not Guilty" verdicts are legal determinations made by reasonable jurors. Guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. A reasonable juror who has a doubt as to guilt is required by law to return a verdict of "not guilty".
If you can get your brain wrapped around the
concept of legal guilt (determined by a jury) versus moral guilt
(determined by God or your own moral principles), you can understand why
the legal system works the way it does.
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