Reasonable Doubt vs. Preponderance of Evidence

Authored by Wendy Witt, Esq.

How hard is Beyond a Reasonable Doubt to Prove?

Though the question, "How hard is beyond a reasonable doubt to prove", is case specific, we'll answer the question. To find out how hard it is to prove reasonable doubt in your specific case, you must consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney and share all of the facts the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Reasonable Doubt is a Touchdown

We'll jump on the bandwagon and use a sports analogy one that most Americans would understand.

The prosecutor (aka district attorney or attorney general) must show the jury that all of the elements of the crime are present and that the accused is the one who committed that crime - beyond a reasonable doubt.

In other words, the prosecutor must get the ball all the way to the goal line and no one watching the "game" can reasonably think that it wasn't a touchdown.

Difference between Reasonable Doubt and Preponderance of Evidence

Reasonable doubt is the standard used for all criminal cases and preponderance of the evidence is the standard for civil cases. If reasonable doubt is a touchdown, then preponderance of the evidence is merely getting the ball to the 51st yard line.

  • A criminal case is brought by the public (via the prosecutor) against someone who is thought to have broken a criminal law.

Examples would be the DA charging and prosecuting an individual for murder, rape, computer fraud, identity theft, arson, spousal abuse, or child neglect.

  • A civil case is a legal wrong other than a contract for which there is a legal remedy. More simply put, it's a non-criminal case, brought by the injured person or her family, such as a car accident or medical malpractice claim.
  • Bottom Line:
    • Touchdown. Beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal case. The ball must be to the goal line.
    • 51st Yard Line. More likely than not. Civil case. In a civil case, the plaintiff's attorney must only get the ball only to the 51st yard line to prove the case the ball doesn't need to be anywhere near the goal line.

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