The Presumption of Innocence: A Deflationary Account

(2020) Modern Law Review, DOI: 10.1111/1468-2230.12594

Posted: 17 Dec 2020

See all articles by Federico Picinali

Federico Picinali

London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: November 12, 2020


The presumption of innocence is unanimously considered a fundamental requirement for criminal justice. This notwithstanding, the meaning of the presumption is hotly disputed in the legal scholarship. This article contributes to the debate, advancing a novel theory of the meaning as well as of the justification of the presumption of innocence. It assesses critically the components of the presumption that are discussed and defended in the literature; and it shows thatthe meaning of the presumption should be unloaded of most of these components. The upshot is a markedly deflationary account, according to which the presumption of innocence consists exclusively of a rule on the allocation of the burden of proof. This rule is justified by appealing to the principle of inertia in argumentation, rather than – as it generally occurs – to the value of protecting the innocent from conviction.

Suggested Citation

Picinali, Federico, The Presumption of Innocence: A Deflationary Account (November 12, 2020). (2020) Modern Law Review, DOI: 10.1111/1468-2230.12594, Available at SSRN:

Federico Picinali (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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