Legal Innocence Law and Legal Definition

Legal innocence refers to absence of one or more procedural or legal bases to support the sentence given to a defendant. Legal innocence is distinguished from actual innocence. Actual innocence focuses on the facts underlying the sentence. Legal innocence focuses on the applicable law and procedure and is not readily available. However, legal innocence is not ordinarily sufficient to satisfy the cause-and-prejudice rule that results from a defendant’s failure to assert an established legal principle..

In United States v. Hudak, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16443 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2003), it was held that as the legal standard for withdrawal of a plea makes clear, legal innocence is a critical factor to be considered. The purpose of considering legal innocence is to insure that the defendant's reason for withdrawing his plea is just and not simply a recalculation of his/her chances of defeating the indictment.