Prosecution in New Haven Criminal Cases
What the prosecution will have to prove in court in a New Haven criminal case will change on a case-by-case basis. However, what is consistent with every case is the burden of proof. The state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of the offenses charged. Their burden is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The role of a New Haven criminal defense lawyer is to prevent this burden of proof from being met.
The elements change on charge-by-charge basis. There can be some overlap in terms of the different counts that someone is charged with and the degree of a charge, but each crime has various elements and each element needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Proving the Case
The prosecution begins the case with the police reports which can include statements photographs, the expert analysis, and the medical records. They begin with whatever information is provided to them. Once they have that initial information, they may send out their investigators and then they work with the police to follow up on certain pieces of evidence.
Some types of cases, such as sexual assault cases, may include DNA evidence which the prosecution will gather. For firearm cases they may collect the fingerprints. In both cases they need to wait for lab results.
Every case will change and the prosecution’s case will depend upon the evidence that was collected by the police officers.
The evidence will change on a case-by-case basis, but typically, evidence will consist of physical evidence, which can be DNA, fingerprint, blood evidence, or clothing. They can also present evidence of photographs or a video. Experts, such as ballistic experts, the sexual assault experts can help validate these sorts of evidence. Additionally, evidence can include testimony. People may not realize that a person’s testimony, even without other physical evidence, may be the only evidence they need to prove a criminal offense.
The legal principle behind that is the idea that, in a jury trial, the determination of credibility is solely the responsibility of the jury. The jury decides how credible that person’s testimony is or is not. If the person’s testimony is found to be credible, that alone is enough to sustain a conviction in certain types of cases.
There are legal challenges and there are types of testimony that may not be invincible, such as hearsay evidence, but if that person is simply providing testimony about what happened to them or what they saw, that testimony alone may in fact be enough to give rise to a criminal conviction. The evidence presented by the state will really be dictated by the type of case that they are handling.
Expert witnesses and forensic witnesses play a major role both in the state’s case, as well as in a proper defense. Many cases will involve expert testimony, whether it is a DUI, a firearm case, or a sexual assault case; they all require the state typically to present expert testimony.
An expert’s testimony is unique because they are allowed to rely on certain pieces of information that are not necessarily presented to the jury and they are also allowed to offer certain expert opinions.
Typically, at a trial, witnesses are not allowed to offer their opinion. That is something that is barred by the rules of evidence. However, in the case of an expert, they are granted leeway and they are able to offer testimony as to their expert opinion and very often that is a key piece of the case.
The expert witnesses often play a key role in the prosecution’s case and it is something that the defense needs to evaluate, assess, and try to counteract by hiring their own experts to ensure that the information that is being provided is in fact accurate. If it is not, the jury needs to be made aware of that.
One of the key areas that is currently developing in connection with expert witnesses has to do with the eye-witness identification. That area is now being challenged where science has shown that people are simply not all that reliable when they witness a crime. It is very often difficult for people to actually pick someone out of a lineup and it is not as reliable as many people think. Eye-witness testimony can often be challenged.
Who the Prosecution Convinces
The prosecution has to convince a jury. It is up to the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of the criminal offense and a jury ultimately makes that determination. That applies to criminal cases—anytime someone is facing incarceration on a criminal offense. The state needs to meet its burden before a jury.
The one exception to this is in violation of probation cases. In a violation of probation, the rules and burden are a little different, because it is a violation and not a new criminal offense.
The courts have determined that violations of probation are not necessarily criminal in nature, but they are what they call quasi-criminal offenses. In that situation, the burden is (more or less) the preponderance of the evidence. Secondly, it simply needs to be proven to a court or to a judge that a condition of probation has been violated.
In that situation, in a case involving a violation of probation, an individual is not entitled to a trial before a jury; in that situation, the state simply needs to prove the violation by a preponderance of the evidence to a judge.