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Virginia defendant acquitted of criminal charges despite doubts

The judicial system in the United States is set up so that defendants in criminal cases cannot face a conviction without being proven guilty. Mere presumptions that the allegations are true are not enough to convict someone. This point was recently demonstrated in a case about an hour and a half northwest of Portsmouth.

In Hopewell, a judge acquitted a former police officer of charges that alleged that he abducted a high school student from a local high school. The judge stated that the former police officer was "probably guilty" but he acquitted the defendant anyway. The judge acquitted the man because prosecutors could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty.

On behalf of the former police officer, the criminal defense argued that the high school student was making up the story of the abduction because she feared that she would not graduate due to her troublesome record at the school. It was also noted that charges against the student herself arising from a fight might have been dropped in exchange for her statement and her cooperation in the case. The judge did not state whether or not he believed the defense's arguments, but the arguments were enough to prevent the officer from being found guilty.

Even though the police officer was acquitted, merely having the charges on his record has negatively impacted him because he is still out of work. Any Portsmouth resident could find that criminal charges on a defendant's record can definitely impact a defendant's ability to find work, housing, and to get an education, despite being acquitted. Defendants who have been acquitted of criminal charges may therefore want to have their records expunged.

Expungement means to seal or erase a defendant's criminal record. When a record is expunged, the defendant does not need to disclose the arrest and in most instances the expunged arrest will not appear in a background check. A legal professional can assist former defendants with the process.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Judge says former Hopewell officer "probably guilty" but acquits him of abducting student," Mark Bowes, Aug. 14, 2013

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