Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases
In a criminal case, the prosecution has a legal duty to meet a certain threshold of evidence, such that the defendant is found guilty of the charge(s). The legal duty is called the burden of proof, which sets the evidentiary standard in a criminal trial. When delivering the final verdict, the judge or the jury have to consider whether the evidence produced throughout the trial satisfied the burden of proof. The burden is on the prosecution, as a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
What is the Criminal Burden?
In criminal cases, the prosecution’s burden of proof is called “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the evidentiary standard used for criminal cases and it is the highest burden of proof in the US legal system. While it is the highest burden, it does not mean that the prosecution has to prove a claim to a 100 percent certainty. Rather, beyond a reasonable doubt requires a person to believe that there is no other logical and plausible explanation other than the argument presented by the prosecution. Therefore, there should be no real and substantive doubt.
Burdens for Police Officers
When conducting their official duties, police officers can also have a legal duty to meet evidentiary standards. These standards are three different burdens of proof: probable cause, reasonable to believe, and reasonable suspicion. For probable cause, the police officers have to prove that there is a fair probability that a crime is being committed. Probable cause is often used when determining whether a lawful search can be conducted. Otherwise, police officers cannot conduct a search simply at any point. Reasonable to believe and reasonable suspicion are lower burdens of proof and require a reasonable belief that a crime is occurring.