A jury instruction can violate a defendant’s due process rights when it receives prosecutors of their obligation to prove every essential element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
When reviewing appeals based on jury instructions, appeals courts determine whether a challenged jury instruction created a mandatory presumption or simply allowed a jury to draw a “permissive inference.”
A mandatory presumption instructs jurors to infer a presumed fact if the State proves certain other facts. A permissive inference suggests to a jury a possible conclusion to be drawn if the state proves certain facts, but does not require the jury to make that conclusion.
Example mandatory presumption:
“If the state proves that a defendant possessed stolen property, then you must conclude that the defendant stole the property.”
Example permissive inference:
“If the state proves that a defendant possessed stolen property, then you may infer that the defendant stole the property.”
The permissive inference does not violate a defendant’s due process rights because the state still has to convince the jury to make the conclusion based on the facts that the state has proved.
The Salt Lake City criminal defense team at Greg Smith & Associates handles criminal cases throughout Utah. If you or a loved one is under investigation or has been charged with a crime, call us at 801-651-1512 or contact us online.