FAQ: What does alleged mean in a criminal case?

What does alleged mean?

In criminal law, an “allegation” is an unproven accusation. For example, a person suspected or accused of committing the offense of burglary may be referred to as an“alleged burglar.”  The word “burglar” should not be used alone without “alleged” unless the accused entered a plea of guilty or no contest, or unless he has already been convicted at trial.

We use the term “alleged” because it is not uncommon for a person to be falsely accused of a crime and also because the presumption of innocence is a fundamental right in all modern nations, including the United States.

A criminal defense attorney may refer to the complainant as the “alleged victim” when the defendant disputes the accuracy of the allegation because use of the word “victim” alone implies that the accusation is true.


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