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Prior convictions must not detract from criminal defense

Being accused of a crime in California can be scary. Being convicted of that crime and serving one's time may be downright frightening. A person coming out of a correctional facility after having served time for a conviction is placed on parole as part of a transition back into society. While repeat offenses may be charged during a person's parole period, a person is still presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty and is entitled to a criminal defense.

After a recent spate of robberies in the Oakland area, a man recently released from prison and on probation has been arrested and charged with four recent thefts. In one of the incidents, a suspect reportedly held up a restaurant. The robber was alleged to have used what looked like a gun in the course of the robbery in which the thief took close to $500. A witness saw a man duck behind a car in a nearby garage where police later found a jacket, a mask and a replica firearm. The police then apprehended the suspect who was identified by a restaurant employee as the perpetrator of the theft.

The accused has prior convictions for attempted robberies and for selling cocaine. None of the prior convictions had been for armed robbery. He served time in jail for those convictions and is not currently eligible for bail because of the alleged parole violation. None of this takes away from the presumption of innocence in the current case.

People released from prison in California should have a chance at showing that they have been rehabilitated and want to become contributing members of society. When faced with a suspect with prior convictions, law enforcement officers can be quick to assume that the person is guilty. Everyone has a right to a criminal defense in a court of a law along with the presumption of innocence until -- and only if -- found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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