Presumption of Innocence

(redirected from Presumption of guilt)
Also found in: Legal.

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 doubtless hopes for a report dressing up such thoughtlessness, based as it was on a presumption of guilt, as 'business as usual' in Wales.
It bears mentioning that most of these men have never been formally charged or tried for sexual crimes in a court of law but recently been convicted in a trial by Twitter where the presumption of guilt overrides any considerations of due process.
To approach a trial with the assumption that the complainant is telling the truth is the equivalent of imposing a presumption of guilt on the person accused of sexual assault and then placing a burden on him to prove his innocence.
Petitioners cited the 'prolonged interrogations, indefinite detention, coerced confessions, presumption of guilt and torture' employed by respondents in earlier hearings.
It is important to note that suspension does not constitute disciplinary action and does not itself imply any presumption of guilt on the part of an employee.
But there is a presumption of guilt despite the Public Protectors report being taken on review.
The act passed will provide for an irrebuttable presumption of guilt if those being investigated refuse or fail to facilitate of authorise the probe.
Member by the Respondent by any other means that may be required by any foreign jurisdiction, governments, authorities or officials concerned and such facilitation may include the signing of any documents, forms, applications, requests or authorizations required; The Act shall provide for an irrebuttable presumption of guilt in the event the Respondent refuses or fails to give the authorization or extend the facilitation referred to in clause (d) above;
Manalo said that the natural course of the court is towards a fair and liberal appreciation of the evidence in determining the level of proof and presumption of guilt elements needed to warrant the deprivation of the right to post bail.
It details the process of creating the Spanish Inquisition in 1478 and its underlying rationale and the organization of the Tribunal; the characteristics of the trial of faith and its phases, focusing on the presumption of guilt, the regulations for the application of torture, and the importance of procedural secrecy; individual experiences of Portuguese New Christians who were prisoners in Lima; the documents related to the Great Complicity and the prisoners involved; the experiences of prisoners and comparisons to those in Mexico, Spain, and Portugal; and those condemned to death in the 1639 Auto General de Fe.
Some fraudulent allegations are obvious but when carefully crafted, fraud can be difficult to prove, especially if there is a presumption of guilt or where witnesses appear more credible than the respondent.
Merely on the framing of a charge, there is no presumption of guilt.