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What does beyond a reasonable doubt mean?

On Behalf of | Jun 19, 2024 | Criminal Defense

In criminal cases, the standard of proof is very high. It has to be shown that the evidence means the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is much different than civil cases, where a preponderance of evidence may be used.

While most people have heard this term before, you may be unfamiliar with exactly what it means if you are facing criminal charges. How is this standard going to apply to your case? Why is it so important?

Removing all doubt

The thing to remember about criminal cases is that the pressure is often not on the accused to prove that they are innocent. Instead, the prosecution must prove that they are guilty.

In other words, if there’s any reason to doubt that guilt, then the court usually needs to find a not guilty verdict. This doesn’t mean that they can prove definitively that the person did not commit the crime. Perhaps they did. But the jury does not have the type of evidence necessary to remove all doubt, so they can’t make that determination. They have to assume the person is innocent unless proven otherwise. 

For instance, maybe an eyewitness identified the person at the scene of the crime. But it then turns out that the eyewitness is biased and had a grudge against the accused from a separate incident. The eyewitness may be telling the truth, but this could also introduce reasonable doubt that would cause a jury to question the accuracy of their statements.

If you are facing criminal charges, it’s quite important to understand how the process works and all of the legal defense options you have at your disposal.