A lot of people have only the vaguest idea of how criminal law works, and in general that’s a good thing because it means they have never run into trouble. The bad thing is that because of that ignorance, they could be unwittingly tricked into waiving their rights or even convicted of a crime they did not commit.
“Innocent until proven guilty” does not mean that the innocent can always prove innocence. If that were true, there would not be organizations such as the Innocence Project which takes on cases of what they are convinced are the wrongfully convicted. Technically, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor, but the innocent defendant should know that not everything is as it appears to be, and enough circumstantial evidence can convict an innocent person.
Many cases are based on circumstantial evidence that can be construed to mean one thing or the other, and can lead to a false construction of a crime. There are instances when an eye witness or an expert makes a mistake; they are human after all. As pointed out by Ian Inglis on his website, it can be struggle for a defendant to challenge these aspects of the case. Simply maintaining their innocence is not enough to convince a jury to acquit if the circumstantial evidence is compelling enough, and reasonable doubt is not introduced into the trial.
The innocent defendant also has a tendency to believe that cooperating with law enforcement shows that they have “nothing to hide” but the fact is police interrogators will do anything short of physical harm to get a confession. They work hard to break down a person’s normal defenses if they strongly believe that they have a viable suspect in custody. While this may work with a guilty person, it unfortunately works against an innocent person just as well.
The criminal defense lawyer is not there to get the guilty off the hook; they are there to protect the rights of the defendant and to ensure that they aren’t bullied into a conviction. Guilty or innocent, when faced with a criminal charge, it is important to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer before one word comes out of your mouth.