Presumption of Innocence

Also found in: Legal, Wikipedia.

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 ?
He said Reyes also no longer enjoys presumption of innocence since he has already been convicted of graft charges.
The commission has consistently maintained that all courses of action in relation to the drug campaign must ensure strict adherence to constitutional guarantees such as presumption of innocence and due process," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia told The STAR yesterday.
In keeping with the programs format, participants will be asked to consider several questions, such as the line between casual flirtatious conduct and misconduct, the toll of sexual harassment, how to maintain a presumption of innocence while still encouraging those abused to come forward, and more.
The AACTA said: "We support an action that both respects Geoffrey's rights to the presumption of innocence and due process.
Leonen reminded him on the presumption of innocence that would need to be observed.
However, the IOC reiterates that the presumption of innocence prevails.
The seminar began with a lecture on the origin of the presumption of innocence and its expressions throughout history and across cultures.
In Macedonia we are currently engaged in a fierce propaganda war for presumption of innocence.
With their statement they violated the independence of the judiciary and the presumption of innocence," Uskovski said at the fourth roundtable on the role of the Judicial Council and the highest courts in the protection of the judges' independence and on the key role of the merit system in appointing judges that took place at the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors 'Pavel Satev' on Monday.
For reasons linked to privacy rights and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the adjudicatory chamber will not publish details of the sanctions requested by the investigatory chamber in its final reports.
At the same time the presumption of innocence is a fundamental right that has to be considered.
During the routine press conference, answering to a reporter's question, EU commission Speaker Maja Kocijancic recalled the importance of presumption of innocence and the right for an independent and transparent investigation in case of any alleged wrongdoing with full respects of the rights of the defendants.