Insufficient Evidence in PA Criminal Code

October 27, 2020

Insufficient Evidence in PA Criminal Code

In criminal cases like murder, robbery, and theft, the evidence provided must be sufficient to support a verdict once all elements of the crime have been established. However, if there is reason to believe that the evidence is not factually ground, does not seem plausible to the human experience, or defies the laws of nature as we know them, that evidence will be deemed insufficient.

But under Pennsylvania criminal law, how do you prove insufficient evidence? The criminal defense attorneys of Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano explain.

What is insufficient evidence?

According to Cornell Law School, insufficient evidence is that which “fails to meet the burden of proof. In a trial, if the prosecution finishes presenting their case and the judge finds they have not met their burden of proof, the judge may dismiss the case (even before the defense presents their side) for insufficient evidence.” In addition, insufficient evidence may be grounds for an appeal.

Insufficient Evidence in PA Criminal Procedure

Under Pennsylvania Rule 606 of the state’s criminal procedure, the defendant can raise a claim of insufficient evidence at virtually any point. If the claim is made for the first time on appeal, a defendant must specify the basis of the claim and identify the elements of the crime.

To challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction, the defendant must do one or more of the following:

  • 1. Motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the Commonwealth’s case-in-chief;
  • 2. Motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of all the evidence;
  • 3. Motion for judgment of acquittal filed within 10 days after the jury has been discharged without agreeing upon a verdict;
  • 4. Motion for judgment of acquittal made orally immediately after the verdict;
  • 5. Motion for judgment of acquittal made orally before sentencing pursuant to Rule 704(B);
  • 6. Motion for judgment of acquittal made after the sentence is imposed pursuant to Rule 720 (B); or
  • 7. Challenge the sufficiency of the evidence made on appeal.

Under Rule 606, a motion for judgment of acquittal does not constitute an admission of any facts except for the purpose of deciding the motion. In addition, “if a defendant moves for judgment of acquittal at the close of all the evidence, the court may reserve decision until after the jury returns a guilty verdict or after the jury is discharged without agreeing upon a verdict.”

Once an insufficient evidence claim has been made by the defendant, the court will review the evidence, determining if all elements of the crime were established beyond a reasonable doubt.

Scranton Criminal Defense Attorneys: Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano

If you have been charged with a crime in Scranton, you may have many questions, especially if the evidence is just not adding up. But if you fear a guilty verdict for you or a loved one, know the rule of insufficient evidence may be enough to have the court take another look at your case.

Whatever crime you have been charged with, make sure you contact our law firm as soon as possible. A delay in contacting us may hurt your case. Contact the Scranton criminal defense attorneys at Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano today for a free consultation.

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