Presumption of innocence and Right to silence in US Law

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Jenny142

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Presumption of innocence and Right to silence in US Law

Post by Jenny142 » Mon May 31, 2021 6:55 am

Hello everyone. I'm a law student, but not in US. My group is doing a research about presumption of innocence in US law. We have a question about the scope of presumption of innocence.
In my country's legal system, people understand that right to silence is considered to be a derivative rights from presumption of innocence. POI in my legal system can be applied in every stage of criminal proceedings, as well as Right to silence.
In the US Law, we find out that presumption of innocence is only applied in trial, not before trial (Bell v. Wolfish). It's still OK until the right to silence can be applied before the trial. So are there any conflicts between the scope of POI and Right to silence in US Law? I search on the Google about this issue. It only has some article about POI and detention before trial.
I'm very grateful if someone know the answer. Thank you so much.

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cavalier1138

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Re: Presumption of innocence and Right to silence in US Law

Post by cavalier1138 » Mon May 31, 2021 11:20 am

It's interesting to see a perspective on presumption-of-innocence that makes it the source of other rights. And I agree with what you've found so far: In the US system, the presumption is only really the source of substantive rights at trial. A criminal defendant's other rights in the US system (such as the right to remain silent) come from the Constitution and are independent of that presumption. I don't think any court has ever found the presumption itself to be a constitutional right, but it arguably falls under due process.

In other words, I have the right against unreasonable search and seizure not because I am presumed innocent, but because even if I am guilty, the Constitution says I have certain rights that the government cannot abridge. In practice, courts often bend over backwards to find that a defendant's rights have not been violated if the result would be the acquittal of someone who is clearly guilty. But in theory, this should mean that even if DNA evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty, the jury will not hear that evidence if it was obtained illegally.

That said, I believe the presumption of innocence applies at all stages of a criminal proceeding until there is a verdict. It just won't be invoked (except as a rhetorical device) because it isn't the source of any substantive rights before the case gets in front of a jury.

Really interesting question; I love learning about international approaches to criminal law.

nixy

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Re: Presumption of innocence and Right to silence in US Law

Post by nixy » Mon May 31, 2021 12:23 pm

The presumption of innocence definitely applies pre-trial - the pre-trial detainees in Bell v. Wolfish are still very much presumed innocent - but it's correct that it doesn't really confer a lot of substantial rights until you get to trial. Pretrial detainees do in theory have more rights than convicted inmates, because they are presumed innocent and being held not to punish them (which is the case if you're serving a sentence after being convicted), but because they either pose a risk of flight or a risk of harm to the public. (There are lots of debates about the role of cash bail and whether the US holds too many people in custody pretrial, but that's sort of conceptually different.) But that said, when someone is held in custody, they still lose a bunch of rights even if they're presumed innocent/pretrial rather than serving a sentence, because the security considerations aren't very different.

I don't think there's any real conflict between the POI and the right to remain silent. In the US, both derive from the same source, the 5th Amendment right to due process. Both apply at every stage of criminal proceedings (though technically once you're convicted and sentenced on an offense, or if you get immunized against prosecution on that offense, you can lose your right to remain silent about it, because nothing you say about it can be used against you). You can waive your right to remain silent, but you can't really waive your right to be presumed innocent, assuming you go to trial, that is.

Jenny142

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Re: Presumption of innocence and Right to silence in US Law

Post by Jenny142 » Tue Jun 01, 2021 11:55 am

cavalier1138 wrote:
Mon May 31, 2021 11:20 am
It's interesting to see a perspective on presumption-of-innocence that makes it the source of other rights. And I agree with what you've found so far: In the US system, the presumption is only really the source of substantive rights at trial. A criminal defendant's other rights in the US system (such as the right to remain silent) come from the Constitution and are independent of that presumption. I don't think any court has ever found the presumption itself to be a constitutional right, but it arguably falls under due process.

In other words, I have the right against unreasonable search and seizure not because I am presumed innocent, but because even if I am guilty, the Constitution says I have certain rights that the government cannot abridge. In practice, courts often bend over backwards to find that a defendant's rights have not been violated if the result would be the acquittal of someone who is clearly guilty. But in theory, this should mean that even if DNA evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty, the jury will not hear that evidence if it was obtained illegally.

That said, I believe the presumption of innocence applies at all stages of a criminal proceeding until there is a verdict. It just won't be invoked (except as a rhetorical device) because it isn't the source of any substantive rights before the case gets in front of a jury.

Really interesting question; I love learning about international approaches to criminal law.
Thank you so much for your answer.
It's so interesting when you said that "the presumption is only really the source of substantive rights at trial. A criminal defendant's other rights in the US system (such as the right to remain silent) come from the Constitution and are independent of that presumption". Honestly, because of the difference between 2 legal system, it's just strange to me of your statement that the presumption of innocence and the defendant's constitutional rights are independent.
Could you introduce me some materials about this issue? Like articles of scholars or books,... .
I'm very happy if you reply me this time. Again, thank you so much.
P/s: Please ignore my English grammar, it's worse than I imagine.

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cavalier1138

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Re: Presumption of innocence and Right to silence in US Law

Post by cavalier1138 » Wed Jun 02, 2021 6:25 am

I don't know of any specific articles on this subject, but I'm sure someone's written a law review article on POI.

Nixy might be aware of other materials, but a lot of understanding of criminal law in this area is developed in practice, not through scholarship.

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