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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Presumption of Innocence

The presumption of innocence standard is supposed to be unequivocal. I'm not sure that it always plays out as true in everyday life. Just watch the first ten minutes of the local news, speak to those recently arrested for a DWI, or ask those who recently got a traffic ticket, I don't think they feel they are presumed innocent.

On Wednesday afternoon I received a call on my cell phone. This was the message:
"Hello Ms. Smith, this is Officer ____ with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. I need you to give me a call back in reference to an accident a vehicle that you were driving was involved in yesterday late in the evening. My phone number is _______ and this is Officer ______. I need you to call me immediately in reference to that incident." 
An accident? A vehicle I was driving? Tuesday was a long day. I spent Tuesday in the hospital with a family member and was there until early Wednesday morning.
Also, who is Ms. Smith and why is an officer leaving a message for Ms. Smith on my cell phone? I called the officer back, identified myself and told the officer I was not in an accident the night before. I also told him my name was not Ms. Smith. He was polite and stated that someone must have given him the wrong phone number.

But his call prompted me to think about the presumption of innocence. I didn't do anything wrong but immediately feel I am put on the defensive. I know where I was- I  have documents and witnesses to verify this, etc.

When a police officer questions a person, does that person walk away feeling like the presumption of innocence is on their side? I'm not sure they do.....

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