If you might be charged and go to trial for a crime you didn't commit, there are three things you should keep in mind for your defense. You will want to work with your attorney as much as possible.
1. Remember that in the U.S. legal system you are "presumed innocent until proven guilty."
In a fair trial, there are two things that the prosecution has to overcome to obtain a conviction. One of these is the presumption of innocence, and the second that they need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did the crime.
This means that the burden of proof of your guilt rests on the prosecution and not on you to prove your innocence. Your attorney's main strategy will be to poke holes in the veracity of the inculpatory (incriminating) evidence and to attack the reasoning behind the allegations that prosecutor is making.
2. With this in mind, you should exercise your right to legal counsel when talking to police.
When the police question you about the incident, you have the right to remain silent and to obtain legal counsel. This is true whether you are being held in custody or not, and what you say to them can incriminate you in both situations and help the prosecution's eventual aim to prove you guilty. Once you state that you want to invoke your right to silence, the police should wait until you have an attorney present to continue an interview.
You should be aware that the police do not have to recite the Miranda warning to you unless they have arrested you and intend on questioning you.
You should wait to talk to your defense attorney about the incident before talking to the police (unless of course, someone's life or well-being is at stake). You should be aware that the most helpful and innocent sounding statements from you to the police could be misconstrued.
If you do wait, your attorney would advise you on how not to unintentionally incriminate yourself, and this will also help them to provide the best defense for you at trial.
3. Not only does the prosecution need to prove you did the crime to have a strong case, they need to show you had a criminal intent to do this deed.
In most crimes, the element of mens rea or "guilty mind" is needed for a successful conviction. That means the prosecutor should provide convincing evidence you intended to cause harm to property, to another person, or against society. In recent years, this aspect has been weakened somewhat but continues to be a factor. This is when the prosecutor will use terms like "willfully," "knowingly," and "maliciously" when describing your actions.
Of course, ignorance of the law is considered no excuse, but there may be some instances in the future where this may be a defense because legislation in some instances has become too strict to be sustainable. There is a push-back occurring, especially if it is in the field of security and technology. With laws so vast and numerous, it is impossible to reasonably learn them all.
When deliberating over someone's guilt, a jury needs to believe that person wanted to break the law and therefore should suffer the consequences. If you did something in self defense, did it for some greater good, or did it because you are mentally ill, it would be harder to justify convicting you. This can also be true if you make a mistake of fact, which is when you unknowingly commit a crime. An example of this would be if you had borrowed someone's coat and did not know there were some narcotic medications in the pocket that were not prescribed to you. (Of course, in this instance, you are more likely to be believed if you don't already have a criminal record.)
If no intent or motive has been demonstrated, and the evidence against your claim of incidence is shaky, the prosecution's case would be weak and your chances of being acquitted would be good if you had good legal counsel to point these things out and emphasize them.
If you are charged with a serious crime, talk with criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible before talking to the police and avoid incriminating yourself, or doing anything that could cause them to suspect you had some sort of malicious intent to commit this offense.
For more information, contact Greenberg Walden & Grossman or a similar firm.