What Does "Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" Mean?

From movies and television series to novels, most people understand that the jury needs to find someone guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict them of a crime in the United States. However, many folks are unsure what it actually means.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a legal standard the prosecutor must satisfy to obtain a guilty verdict against a criminal defendant, as well as the highest standard of proof that needs to be met at any criminal trial. When this standard is met, there is no other logical explanation that the defendant didn’t commit the crime, thus overcoming the presumption that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

According to the criminal justice system in the United States, defendants are presumed to be innocent until he/she has proven not to be. When the prosecution provides evidence that proves an element of a crime, the defendant has an opportunity to raise a doubt about it.

Keep in mind, proving beyond a reasonable doubt doesn’t mean that there is absolutely no doubt the defendant is innocent. Instead, the phrase means the established facts of the case (e.g. reasonable suspicion, probable cause, as well as clear and convincing evidence) led the court to one logical conclusion: the defendant is guilty.

While the existence of unreasonable doubt is possible, it doesn’t lead a reasonable individual to determine the defendant didn’t commit the crime. The reason why this standard of proof is so high is to reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions.

If you have been accused of a crime in Bryan or College Station, TX, contact The Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C. today and schedule a free consultation.

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