Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary
The burden of proof that the prosecution must carry in a criminal trial to obtain a guilty verdict. Reasonable doubt is sometimes explained as being convinced “to a moral certainty.” The jury must be convinced that the defendant committed each element of the crime before returning a guilty verdict.
adj. part of jury instructions in all criminal trials, in which the jurors are told that they can only find the defendant guilty if they are convinced “beyond a reason- able doubt” of his or her guilt. Sometimes referred to as “to a moral certainty,” the phrase is fraught with uncertainty as to meaning, but try: “you better be damned sure.” By comparison, it is meant to be a tougher standard than “preponderance of the evidence,” used as a test to give judgment to a plaintiff in a civil (non-criminal) case.
Beyond a reasonable doubt must be proven by the prosecution in a standard criminal case. It requires the jury to be satisfied to a “moral certainty.” It does not require that all doubt be eliminated, but rather, the evidence is so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of the ordinary person.
The state’s prosecution is held to this strict standard of proof because they are attempting to take a United States citizen and place them in jail maybe for the rest of their life. For example, in some states, second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence. Because of the seriousness of the crime and the subsequent penalties the state is held to a strict standard of proof. If a defendant hires a criminal defence lawyer their goal is to argue the state has not proved the elements of the crime against their client beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil cases have a much lower burden of proof. Many civil cases only require the plaintiff to prove their case through a “preponderance of the evidence.”
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This glossary post was last updated: 26th April, 2020 | 2 Views.