The Definition of “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”

The legal world is full of complicated phrases, and even simple phrases that nevertheless hide numerous levels of complexities. From Latin phrases like “res ipsa loquitur” to word pairings that seem to repeat themselves, like “null and void” or “due process,” the law can seem like a needlessly confusing field.

When it comes to criminal law, one of these phrases that seems simple, yet hides a surprising amount of complexity is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It is also one of the most important phrases to fully understand, if you are taking a foray into the world of the criminal justice system.

“Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” is a Standard of Proof

Burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt chartAll lawsuits involve one side competing with another in order to win the argument of who was in the wrong. The side that makes the claim that the other one was the wrongdoer, however, has to prove it. How well they have to prove their claim in court is called a standard of proof.

Depending on the case, different standards of proof can be used. In a typical civil case, in which one person is usually suing another person for money, then the standard of proof that has to be met is a “preponderance of the evidence.” Because “preponderance” merely means “a greater amount,” this means that the side making the claims simply has to present more evidence than their counterpart. To win a case by a preponderance of the evidence, you only have to be slightly more persuasive than the other side, presenting 51% of the evidence, while your opponent can only muster 49% of it.

“Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” Defined

In a criminal case, though, the standard of proof is significantly higher. Instead of having to prove a case by a “preponderance of the evidence,” the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead of just having to be more convincing than the other side, the side making the claim has to eliminate any reasonable possibility that they are incorrect. If they leave even the slightest doubt in existence after the case is over, then the side making the claim will lose.

One Side has the Burden of Meeting the Standard of Proof

It is important to remember that the side making the claim is the one that has the burden of meeting the standard of proof necessary to win. This is called the “burden of proof.” In a criminal case, the side with the burden of proof is always the prosecutor, who is trying to show that you were guilty of committing the crime you are being charged with. This is the claim that they will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Federal Criminal Law Center Raises Reasonable Doubts for a Living

The criminal defense attorneys at the Federal Criminal Law Center are all professional reasonable doubt raisers. By focusing on federal charges, we have learned how best to raise effective reasonable doubts for our clients in court. Contact our law office online to represent you and help you fight and beat a charge for a federal crime.