How does an impeachment trial differ from a criminal trial? Historically, presidents who face impeachment are provided with the same protection as criminal defendants receive in their criminal cases like the right to have a criminal lawyer and request a witness to testify. However, according to legal experts, an impeachment proceeding is not intended to be conducted like a criminal trial.
The laws of the United States restrict what evidence can be admitted in a criminal case. There are also complex rules that limit the use of hearsay or second hand information. These rules do not apply to an impeachment case.
The House impeachment probe is criticized by Republicans as a political exercise that is based on hearsay or irrelevant information. While the US Chief Justice can block evidence used in the Senate trial as being hearsay or irrelevant, such determination can be overturned by a majority vote of the Senate.
Jurors in a criminal case are given instructions not to convict a defendant unless there is proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. According to Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, there is no existing formal standard of proof in an impeachment trial. Jurors in criminal cases are required to make factual determinations while senators can make both factual determinations and political judgements.
In a criminal trial, juries must reach a unanimous verdict. The US Constitution requires two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict a president. Jurors are required by US judges to be fair and avoid prejudging a case. Under the US Constitution and Senate laws, senators are required to take an oath and swear that they will be impartial.
However, senators can declare their allegiance before trial and not be disqualified for bias. According to Frank Bowman, impeachment scholar at the University of Missouri, School of Law, the impeachment trial will be a mess if disqualification motions will be allowed.
Criminal defendants have legal protection in place to ensure fair treatment and only be judged based on reliable evidence. By hiring the services of a criminal lawyer, all resources can be deployed quickly and effectively to save the client time stress and money.