In some situations the allegation of a criminal act on its own is enough to throw someone’s life into a tailspin. This is especially true in rape, referred to in New Jersey as “sexual assault.” This is the type of allegation that can lead to ostracization and serious damage to one’s personal relationships and standing in the community.

Under the law a suspect is innocent until proven guilty, the burden is on the state prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But many who have been accused are not viewed as innocent until they are proclaimed not guilty by the court. With this tremendous power placed in the hands of the criminal justice system, one would hope that we had come up with an error free system of determining the innocence or guilt a suspect, particularly one accused of a sex offense. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The criminal justice system can make errors, particularly if the constitutional rights of the suspect are not vigorously defended. Our protections from unreasonable search and seizure and self incrimination are important underpinnings of justice system. But despite these explicit protections in the Constitution, these rights are too often impinged upon.

IN recent years the availability of DNA analysis of evidence has called many prior convictions into question. Many individuals at both the state and federal level have been accused of crimes only later to be exonerated by this type of evidence. It is troubling to consider that without the technological advances that have facilitated this type of evidence many of these people would have faced countless more years behind bars.

Source: MPR News, “Is the criminal justice system as good as you think it is?” John Radsan, May 10, 2012