As a Canadian citizen, you have rights that the government cannot take away. One of these rights is the presumption of innocence, which means that legally, you must be seen as innocent from the charge until you are proven to be guilty.
To shed some light on what the presumption of innocence is, our personal victim lawyers share some of their knowledge with you.
Presumption of Innocence in Canada: definition and application
In Canada, people who are accused of committing a crime are considered innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. This is called the “presumption of innocence”. The presumption of innocence is one of the most important rights in the Canadian criminal justice system.
Conditions of innocence: Reasonable doubt
A person accused of a crime or misdemeanor does not have to prove their innocence. The lawyer who works for the government, called a criminal prosecutor, must show that the person committed the crime. To do this, the lawyer must convince the judge or jury.
During a trial, the judge and jury must respect impartiality. These representatives of justice must not have any prejudice towards the accused. The accused is innocent until proven guilty.
In order to receive a conviction of guilt, there must be no “reasonable doubt” of guilt. If, at the end of the trial, there is not enough evidence or if the judge and jury still have any reasonable doubt, then the accused must be found not guilty and acquitted.
All these rules are part of the fundamental right of the presumption of innocence recognized by section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Right to remain silent
At all stages of the judicial process, the accused has the right to remain silent. This includes from the time of arrest until the outcome of the trial. This means that they are not required to testify in their defense and may remain silent at all times. This rule exists to allow the allegedly innocent victim to avoid harming themselves by testifying against themselves.
Importantly, the judge and jury must not interpret the accused’s choice to remain silent as evidence of guilt. A person is considered innocent in Canada until proven guilty.
When testifying, the accused can agree or disagree to speak. This means that the accused agrees to answer questions from their IVAC lawyer and the prosecutor if they choose to.
Exceptions to presumption of innocence
Presumption of innocence is not an absolute right and certain exceptions exist to protect society.
For example, certain sections of the Canadian Criminal Code contain presumptions of probability that require the accused to prove at 50% + 1 that they are not guilty. In this particular case, the presumption of innocence does not apply and the accused must prove their innocence on their own (alone or with their lawyer).
Defend your rights with Bégin Avocat
As discussed above, anyone charged with an offence in Canada is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The accused has the right to be represented by a lawyer, but if they choose not to have one, they must still benefit from at least one form of assistance during the trial. This is where the lawyers at Bégin can help.