What is Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

In American law, a criminal defendant has a presumption of innocence. We assume they’ve done nothing wrong until the prosecutor has overcome a burden of proof.

There are two kinds of proof in court; “by a preponderance of the evidence” (meaning slightly more likely than not) and “Beyond a reasonable doubt.” While those words sound simple, understanding their true meaning can be the difference between going free and a potential conviction.

The Heaviest Burden

Beyond a reasonable doubt represents the highest burden in law. It means that upon reviewing all the evidence, the jury cannot see any other reasonable way the crime in question could have occurred. While reaching this burden is certainly a challenge, it’s one met in courtrooms every day.

Our criminal justice system is built on the foundation that if you’re going to imprison someone, it should be for a very good reason. Despite this, some states don’t give the jury a definition of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This can make a subjective court case even worse as the jurors argue over what exactly the phrase means.

Doubt Wins the Day

During the trial, a criminal defense attorney’s role is to understand the prosecution’s story and then poke holes in it. They use intense cross-examinations to question exact times, argue scientific evidence, point out hearsay, and more.

A defense attorney wins by creating doubt. If they can demonstrate even a few inaccuracies or misleading facts in the prosecution’s story, then the jury must acquit.

Similarly, attorneys can object to evidence either supporting or damning the defendant’s case. This prevents the jury from seeing all of the evidence, for better or worse, can cast doubt on both sides.

If you’re facing criminal charges, you may want a skilled attorney in your corner. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with an experienced Fresno criminal defense attorney from the Law Office of Brian C. Andritch, please send us an email or call (559) 484-2112.

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