Presumption of Innocence

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Presumption of Innocence


in law, the principle that an accused person is not presumed guilty until guilt has been proved in the legally established manner. The purpose of the presumption of innocence in Soviet criminal procedure is to protect personal rights, ensure the accused’s constitutional right to defense, and guard innocent persons from illegal and unfounded criminal responsibility and conviction. Like any other presumption, the presumption of innocence may be rejected, but only by means established in procedural law and only with the assistance of evidence that is relevant to the case and admitted by law.

The presumption of innocence was first proclaimed in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen at the beginning of the French Revolution: “Everyone must be presumed innocent until he is pronounced guilty” (art. 9). The principle of presumption of innocence is usually proclaimed in the law of modern bourgeois countries and in bourgeois criminal procedural science. In the court practice of the bourgeois countries, however, a presumption of guilt predominates; this can be seen with particular clarity in the criminal prosecution of progressive figures. Nonetheless, in these countries the presumption of innocence is a means of fighting unsubstantiated accusations when large numbers of working people and progressive public opinion oppose such accusations.

The principle of presumption of innocence is fixed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966.

Only in socialist criminal procedure did presumption of innocence acquire its true meaning and real substance. The principle is fixed in the criminal procedural codes of Poland (1970), the German Democratic Republic (1968), and other socialist countries. It is found in many regulations of the Basic Principles of Criminal Procedure of the USSR and the Union Republics (1958). According to this document, no one may be officially accused of a crime except on the grounds and in the manner established by law (art. 4); no one may be found guilty and thereby subjected to criminal punishment except on the basis of a court sentence (art. 7); the court, procurator, investigator, and person conducting the inquiry do not have the right to shift the burden of proof to the accused person, that is, accused persons are not obliged to prove their innocence; it is forbidden to attempt to obtain testimony from an accused person by force, threats, or other illegal measures (art. 14); the guilt of the accused person for commission of the crime must be proved during the investigation and examination of the evidence in court (art. 15); the indictment of an accused person does not predetermine the question of guilt (art. 36); and a guilty verdict cannot be based on presumptions and is rendered only if the guilt of the defendant for commission of the crime has been proved during the trial (art. 43).

The principle of the presumption of innocence, that is, the idea that all unremoved doubts should be interpreted in favor of the defendant, was fixed in law by a June 30, 1969, resolution of the plenum of the Supreme Court of the USSR entitled On the Court Verdict. All of these provisions taken together fully ensure the application of the presumption of innocence.


Teoriia dokazatel’stv v sovetskom ugolovnom protsesse. 2nd ed. Moscow, 1973. Chapter 5.
Polianskii, N. N. Dokazatel’stva v inostrannom ugolovnom protsesse. Moscow, 1946.
Strogovich, M. S. Kurs sovetskogo ugolovnogo protsessa, vol. 1. Moscow, 1968. Chapters 5 and 10.
References in periodicals archive ?
We are confident Brazilian authorities will observe the universal principle of innocent until proven guilty and will conduct their investigation in a manner commensurate with Brazil's standing as a great nation.
Coventry City Council leader, Labour councillor John Mutton, insists his colleague is innocent until proven guilty.
Joanne Dowd, 29, unemployed from Stockton, said: "It's meant to be innocent until proven guilty, but in the media it often seems to be guilty until proven innocent.
Defendants should be considered innocent until proven guilty by a court and should be treated accordingly.
What has happened to the old saying, innocent until proven guilty.
The law says a person is innocent until proven guilty, true or false?
The notion of innocent until PROVEN guilty doesn't seem to apply here.
But what I do know is that for centuries the basic principle in English law is that someone is innocent until proven guilty.
Though the legal presumption should always be innocent until proven guilty, it is strange for a law enforcement official to clink glasses with an accused child killer prior to the revelation that the DNA samples did not match.
But Mr Prescott, in charge of the Government when Tony Blair leaves for a holiday on Boxing Day brushed off suggestions the singer should barred from entry to the country, saying it was important to hold to the principle that individuals were innocent until proven guilty.
In the second century, Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius made a gigantic leap forward in criminal law when he ordered that defendants were to be assumed innocent until proven guilty.
In support of the proposal, the argument is made that elsewhere in America citizens are presumed innocent until proven guilty and that the same standard should apply to dealings with the IRS.