beyond a reasonable doubt

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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The standard that must be met by the prosecution's evidence in a criminal prosecution: that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime, thereby overcoming the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

If the jurors or judge have no doubt as to the defendant's guilt, or if their only doubts are unreasonable doubts, then the prosecutor has proven the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant should be pronounced guilty.

The term connotes that evidence establishes a particular point to a moral certainty and that it is beyond dispute that any reasonable alternative is possible. It does not mean that no doubt exists as to the accused's guilt, but only that no Reasonable Doubt is possible from the evidence presented.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof that must be met in any trial. In civil litigation, the standard of proof is either proof by a preponderance of the evidence or proof by clear and convincing evidence. These are lower burdens of proof. A preponderance of the evidence simply means that one side has more evidence in its favor than the other, even by the smallest degree. Clear and Convincing Proof is evidence that establishes a high probability that the fact sought to be proved is true. The main reason that the high proof standard of reasonable doubt is used in criminal trials is that such proceedings can result in the deprivation of a defendant's liberty or even in his or her death. These outcomes are far more severe than in civil trials, in which money damages are the common remedy.


Clear and Convincing Proof; Due Process of Law; Preponderance of Evidence; Reasonable Doubt.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

beyond a reasonable doubt

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 reasonable 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. (See: reasonable doubt, moral certainty, conviction)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

beyond a reasonable doubt

the standard of proof in criminal cases in the UK, higher than the civil standard of the BALANCE OF PROBABILITIES. Contrasted with the balance of probabilities, it is not a matter of weighing up both sides and deciding who has won. Thus, if matters are evenly balanced, the accused must be acquitted. Juries when charged are often reminded that they are allowed to have doubts. The doubt must be a real doubt before they acquit -it must not be a fanciful doubt.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard applied to the decision about guilt or innocence.
If, however, the jury unanimously finds that one or more aggravating factors have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you should sign Verdict Form 1 (Existence of Aggravating Factor(s)) for each aggravating factor found proven and then proceed to step two.
Does the Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Requirement Apply to Moral or Normative Elements?
(39) The Court rejected this view almost 100 years later, stating that the presumption of innocence and the proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard are logically equivalent.
While the prosecution is indeed required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt specific mental states that are an element of a crime (e.g., mens rea), the Court concluded that there is no constitutional basis for also placing upon the prosecution the burden of disproving the defendant's duress defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
(29) Aggravating factors "are intended to identify those circumstances that single out the crime and the criminal as the 'worst of the worst." (30) In most death penalty states, the government bears the burden of proving each aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. (31) But juries must also consider, during their sentencing deliberations, any relevant mitigating evidence.
In criminal law, the standard for decision is evidence of crime "beyond a reasonable doubt," and doubt is easy here.
The videotape became the proof beyond a reasonable doubt along with the fact that the child did not show any symptoms of apnea when removed from the mother's supervision.
Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant intended to personally benefit from the theft, and knew of the of harm to the owner.
Thomson said that editorial covers "everything from biometrics to public key infrastructure (PKI)," including all technologies that establish beyond a reasonable doubt the identity of any party involved in a transaction.
THE FINAL REPORT OF WHITE-WATER independent counsel Robert Ray, whose objectivity has been certified by his candidacy for the Republican nomination for senator from New Jersey, said "that evidence [of criminal conduct by the Clintons] was, ultimately, of insufficient weight and insufficiently corroborated to obtain and sustain a criminal prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt." All that's missing is a wink and a nudge to accompany Ray's implication: "Boy, do we know they're guilty!
And in the UN tribunals for both Yugoslavia and Rwanda, "a determination of guilt is made by a majority of :he Trial Chamber, with the standard of proof being beyond a reasonable doubt."