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What is meant by “beyond all reasonable doubt”?

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

The deciding factor in most legal cases is evidence. In civil claims, an outcome is decided based on the preponderance of evidence. Essentially, this means that the successful party will have to prove that their version of events is more likely to be true than false.

In criminal cases, the burden of proof is held to a much higher standard. For a defendant to be found guilty at trial, they must be proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. What exactly does this mean?

The defendant needn’t prove anything

There are many misconceptions surrounding criminal cases, including that the defendant must prove their innocence. It’s important to note that the defendant is not obliged to prove anything as they have the presumption of innocence from the beginning. The onus is completely on the prosecution to produce compelling evidence that establishes the guilt of the defendant. Thus, it can be a valid defense strategy for the defendant to argue that there is no case to answer if the case of the prosecution is weak, even if taken at its highest level. In these circumstances, a pre-trial motion to dismiss the case may be lodged or Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal may be submitted at the end of proceedings on the request that the case be dismissed as a matter of law.

Establishing reasonable doubt

In cases where a more active defense strategy is required, the defense need only cast reasonable doubt upon the evidence that prosecution has offered. For example, if there are three witnesses in total, but each gives a different version of events, this could be enough to cast reasonable doubt over the case against the accused. On the other hand, if all three witnesses give credible accounts that all point to the same version of events, this could prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt because there is no other reasonable explanation for what happened.

Criminal cases can be very nuanced. That’s why it’s so important to have the best possible defense strategy for your unique circumstances. Seeking legal guidance can help to ensure that your defense is as strong as it can be.