Defining Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt


To convict anyone of a criminal charge, the state must prove that the person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest legal burden of proof available. The purpose of this required burden of proof is to help ensure that people who are innocent of crimes do not go to jail.

Under this burden of proof, a jury must presume that all persons are innocent, even if they have been arrested and even if they are charged with a crime. The state has the responsibility of proving each element of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

In comparison, other legal standards of proof are far easier to reach. For instance, police only must have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone has committed a crime in order to stop or detain that person for a crime. This simply means that the police officer has articulable facts to support a reasonable assumption that a person has committed a crime.

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Defining Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The next higher legal burden of proof is probable cause. Once a police officer has stopped a driver based on reasonable suspicion, for example, the officer then must have probable cause to arrest the driver for a crime. To establish probable cause, the officer must have sufficiently trustworthy or reliable facts to indicate that a crime has been committed.

Another higher burden of proof than either reasonable suspicion or probable cause is preponderance of the evidence. The most typical use of this legal standard of proof is in civil court cases. The plaintiff must prove that it is “more likely than not” that defendant did something to harm them. In other words, if it is 51% or more likely that an event occurred, then the event occurred by a preponderance of the evidence.The final burden of proof leading up to the reasonable doubt standard is clear and convincing evidence. Although this is a high standard of proof, it still does not require as much evidence as the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Clear and convincing evidence requires a strong conviction or belief that a certain event has occurred. If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 399-2311 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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