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What Is Reasonable Doubt & How Proof Beyond Works
(Common Examples)

In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. This means that the jury must be convinced there is no other reasonable explanation from the evidence presented at trial.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What is a Reasonable Doubt?

Reasonable doubt is a legal term that refers to insufficient evidence which prevents a judge or jury from convicting a defendant of a crime. It is the traditional standard of proof that must be surpassed to garner a conviction in a criminal case in court.

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Why is Reasonable Doubt Important?

Reasonable doubt was created to reduce the chances of an innocent person being convicted. Criminal cases can result in serious consequences, including life sentences in prison or the death penalty, so a defendant should only be convicted if the jurors are 100% confident, based on the evidence presented, of their guilt.

What is the Burden of Proof?

A burden of proof is a legal term that describes the standard a party seeking to prove a fact in court must satisfy to have that fact legally established. In criminal cases, the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt lies with the prosecution, as they must establish this fact beyond a reasonable doubt.

In civil cases, the prosecution is left with the burden of proving their case by a preponderance of the evidence, which means the plaintiff only needs to show that the fact in question is more likely than not to be true.

What is a Preponderance of Evidence?

The minimal standard of proof is called the ‘preponderance of evidence.’ This standard comes into effect when the plaintiff satisfies the burden of proof by presenting evidence that shows their claims have a greater than 50% chance of being true.

In other words, if a claim can be demonstrated to be more likely to be true than not true, the preponderance of the evidence is sufficiently met.

What is an example of a Reasonable Doubt?

An example of reasonable doubt would be a manslaughter trial in which the prosecution was only able to convince the jury that the defendant had a 75% chance of committing the crime. Due to the fact that the jury is 25% uncertain, the prosecution was not able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

Where Did Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Come From?

The requirement that a defendant be convicted by proof beyond a reasonable doubt comes from the due process clause of the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

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