Articles Next»

The Presumption of Innocence in the French and Anglo-American Legal Traditions

Francois Quintard-Morenas


Despite evidence that the presumption of innocence was something more than an instrument of proof, common law scholars in the nineteenth century reduced the doctrine to an evidentiary rule without acknowledging the role of the principle as a shield against punishment before conviction in both the civil and common law traditions. The resulting narrow conception of the presumption of innocence has since pervaded the legal and public discourse in the United States, where suspects are increasingly treated as guilty before trial. Using the French Declaration of Rights of 1789 and the English Prison Act of 1877 as points of reference, this Article retraces the origins and subsequent development of a fundamental principle of justice whose dual dimension–rule of proof and shield against premature punishment–has yet to be formally recognized in modern Anglo-American jurisprudence.

Suggested Citation

Francois Quintard-Morenas. "The Presumption of Innocence in the French and Anglo-American Legal Traditions" The American Journal of Comparative Law 58.1 (2010): 107-149.
Available at: