Legal Standards of Proof for Civil and Criminal Cases

Legal Standards of Proof for Civil and Criminal Cases

Before a defendant is found guilty in a criminal case, the prosecutor must provide enough proof to convince the jury that he truly did commit the crime. Likewise, a defendant cannot be ordered to pay a plaintiff in a civil case unless the plaintiff’s attorney has provided adequate proof of the defendant’s liability. But, how much proof is enough? Here are the legal standards of proof for civil and criminal cases:

Preponderance of the Evidence

Preponderance of the evidence is the legal standard of proof that is used in the majority of civil lawsuits, including personal injury cases. To meet this legal standard of proof, the plaintiff in a civil case must provide evidence that shows there is a greater than 50% chance that the defendant is liable. To put it simply, the plaintiff must show that the defendant is more likely than not liable for the damages.

For example, let’s say a jury is deciding whether a defendant is liable for the car accident that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The jury decides that 60% of the evidence shows that the defendant is liable, but the other 40% of the evidence does not or is questionable. In this situation, the jury must rule in favor of the plaintiff because she was able to provide a preponderance of evidence showing the defendant’s liability.

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt

The beyond a reasonable doubt legal standard of proof is used solely in criminal cases. This is the highest legal standard of proof, meaning more evidence is required to prove this legal standard of proof than any other.

Contrary to popular belief, “beyond a reasonable doubt” does not mean that the jury must be 100% convinced of the defendant’s guilt in order to reach a guilty verdict. It simply means that the jury must find a defendant guilty if the evidence is so convincing that it would be impossible for a reasonable person to doubt the defendant’s guilt. The jury must ask themselves if there is any other logical conclusion that can be reached based on the evidence. If there could be another logical explanation for the evidence besides that the defendant committed the crime, the prosecutor has not met this legal standard of proof.

If you have been injured or charged with a crime, the personal injury attorneys and criminal defense attorneys at Reisch Law Firm can help. We will thoroughly review your case, help you understand your legal options, and then stand by your side through every step of the legal process. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 303-291-0555 or filling out this online form.

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