Beyond Reasonable Doubt: What It Means & How It Could Affect Your Case

The presumption of innocence—“innocent until proven guilty”—is one of the foundations of criminal justice law in the United States and other countries which follow a common law tradition. The only way to overcome this presumption in a criminal trial is for the prosecution to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime that he or she has been charged with.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the legal standard that the prosecution must meet in order to successfully find a criminal defendant guilty of a crime. This standard applies to each element of the criminal offense and is the highest standard of proof possible, which helps to reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions, the risk of innocent people being deprived of their liberty, and ensures all citizens’ rights are better protected.

Reasonable doubt is required in criminal proceedings under the “due process clause” of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court first discussed the term in Miles v. United States (1880) by stating, “The evidence upon which a jury is justified in returning a verdict of guilty must be sufficient to produce a conviction of guilt, to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt.”

While there can still be doubt, it is only to the extent that it would not affect a reasonable person’s belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty. If, however, doubt does affect a “reasonable person’s” belief that the defendant is guilty, then the jury is not satisfied beyond “reasonable doubt.”

Although reasonable doubt is the basis for criminal judgments, a “preponderance of evidence” is all that is required for civil trials. This standard of evidence requires only a high probability that the crime was committed. Reasonable doubt can still exist in civil litigation cases because in civil cases usually only money is at stake, as opposed to the defendant’s liberty.

If you face criminal charges in Texas, contact our McKinney criminal defense attorney at The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. today. With nearly two decades of experience and more than 200 acquittals, our legal team can help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible in your criminal case.

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