Wyoming Guide to Reasonable Doubt

Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof in the American legal system. To find someone guilty, the Constitution requires that a person be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The burden of proof refers to the allegations a party must prove at trial to establish the facts that are in dispute. In a criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden of proving every element of a crime, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is the Highest Standard of Proof

The American legal system recognizes three burdens of proof.

  • A preponderance of the evidence is the lowest standard of proof. It applies in civil cases and means that a judge or jury thinks something is slightly more likely to have happened than not. Lawyers often use the example of two equal stacks of paper. If there is just one more sheet of paper in one stack than the other, the plaintiff has met his burden of proof.
  • Clear and convincing evidence is the middle standard of proof. It is more than a preponderance of the evidence but less than beyond reasonable doubt. The party that bears the burden of proof must present evidence that shows it is highly likely and substantially more probable that a fact in question occurred. The clear and convincing evidence standard s often applied in administrative court cases, such as a prisoner who is seeking habeas corpus from capital punishment.
  • Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof in the American legal system. It means that there is no plausible reason to believe that something occurred in a different way. If, after hearing all the evidence, there is a real doubt about whether someone did the thing they are accused of doing, the burden has not been met. Put another way, the prosecution must show that there is no other logical explanation other than that the defendant committed the crime.

At trial, a criminal defense lawyer will often discuss the different burdens of proof then ask the jury to commit to hearing all the evidence before making a decision about the defendant’s guilt. The lawyer will then explain to the jury that, if they have any reasonable doubts as to whether the defendant committed the crime, they must find the defendant Not Guilty.

Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Protects the Innocent from Conviction

The burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt exists to protect innocent people from being convicted, and to make sure the prosecution is held to the highest standard. In many cases, the defense lawyer will point out to the jury that the prosecutor has failed to meet its burden.

The Defense Has No Burden of Proof

At trial, a defendant does not need to prove anything. In fact, a criminal defense lawyer will often point out to the jury that she could go through an entire trial without calling a single witness or presenting a single piece of evidence and, at the end of the trial, ask the jury to find the defendant Not Guilty because the prosecutor failed to meet his burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Presumption of Innocence and Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence work together to ensure that an innocent person is not convicted of a crime they did not commit.

The presumption of innocence means that a person is innocent until the prosecution has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant did what he was accused of doing.

Just Criminal Law: Protecting Your One Shot at Justice

If you have been charged with a crime, you need a legal team on your side that will work hard to protect your rights by forcing the prosecution to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

At Just Criminal Law, we do this by helping our clients understand the charges and aggressively defending them against allegations of criminal activity. From your first call through the final hearing, our legal team will provide the support you need. We will spend much time as necessary to understand your case so we can mount a vigorous defense.

We invite you to meet our team, and to learn more about the cases we handle and why clients choose us. Then contact us to schedule your personalized case review and strategy session.

Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the consequences of a conviction can be life-changing. Don’t leave your case to chance. Contact Just Criminal Law today to protect YOUR one shot at justice.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.