In a practical sense, the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” means that the prosecution must prove that you are guilty instead of you proving you are innocent.
Crimes in the Criminal Code can be separated into a list of elements the Crown must prove in order for a court to find a person guilty of any particular offence. These elements are called the Elements of the Offence.
Most of the elements of the offence have two parts; the physical act called the actus reus , and the mental component called the the mens rea. All that really means is that the Crown has to prove that the accused person did something that is a crime, and that they meant to do that thing.
An example: Elements of Assault – the Crown must prove you:
- Applied force to another person (actus reus)
- The force was applied on purpose (mens rea);
- Without the other persons consent
The Crown has the burden to prove each of those elements beyond a reasonable doubt. In Criminal cases, the burden of proof is Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. In Civil cases, the burden of proof is balance of probabilities, which means which ever is more likely.
Other offences like Impaired Driving, Drug Possession, Theft or Robbery have their own elements the Crown must prove.
Defence lawyers are trained to look at the elements of the offence, along with other legal principles and procedures. It is in your best interest to consult a lawyer if you are charged with a criminal offence.
*Note: The information on this page is not legal advice, do not rely on it as such . It is for general knowledge. You should consult a lawyer