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How Does Reasonable Doubt Affect My Court Case



Reasonable doubt is the standard by which you will be proven guilty. The prosecutor must be able to establish your guilt to the judge and jury "beyond any reasonable doubt." There may still be doubt because nobody can ever be 100% certain of any past event, but if a reasonable person still believes that you are guilty, then you will be found guilty.

While this may seem like a no-brainer or an obvious standard of setting guilt, it is at the heart of our legal system. By setting doubt as the standard for your guilt, we place the burden of proof on the prosecutor rather than on the defendant. This is where we get the famous legal standard, "innocent until proven guilty."

If you have been charged, but not convicted, of a crime, your criminal defense lawyer will advise you not to do or say anything that might be self-incriminating. This is because you have the right not to be forced to incriminate yourself. This legal principle also stems from the fact that in our court system, individuals are innocent until proven guilty.

Defining Reasonable Doubt

The main issue with reasonable doubt has to do with the fact that it has a rather vague definition. It's the amount of doubt that a reasonable person would have. A "reasonable person" is an idealized axiom that isn't legally defined. Arguments have been going on for many years on a local, state and federal level about whether reasonable doubt should be more exactly defined, or whether the essence of its meaning is contained in its lack of strict definition.

Reasonable Doubt In Criminal Vs. Civil Cases

While reasonable doubt is the basis for criminal judgments, a preponderance of evidence is all that is required for civil trials. This is a more equitable form of judgement, and it is more based on who has the better argument. Criminal trials, however, are not that way, to the benefit of the defendant, i.e. you. In a criminal trial, even if the defendant's argument isn't "good," the burden of proof is always on the prosecution.