– from Jason V. in Summit, WI
I was told the prosecutor has the burden of proof on them. What does this mean in a criminal case?
Criminal Defense Attorney Response:
First we should answer the question what is a burden of proof?
When the state (prosecution or district attorney) bring charges against an individual they must satisfy the burden of proof for a criminal prosecution. There are three burdens of proof we must distinguish between so we can better understand the amount of evidence required to fully convict an individuals facing criminal charges.
Preponderance of the Evidence
Preponderance of the evidence is the first level of proof. This is also the lowest level of proof. What it means is the “fact is more probable than not” . Preponderance of the evidence is typically seen in DMV hearings like a DUI (driving under the influence) arrest.
Clear and Convincing Evidence
Clear and convincing evidence is the second level of evidence and means, “a firm belief or conviction” an event occurred. Clear and convincing evidence is when a plaintiff can show his or her version of the facts are more likely true than the defendant's version. This type of burden of proof is much higher than the preponderance of the evidence, but it is not the highest level of proof.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
The third and highest burden of proof level is proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If a person is facing criminal charges and stands trial in front of a jury of peers the prosecution must erase all reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury (beyond a reasonable doubt) to obtain a conviction. To do this a jury member must put in front of their mind a presumption of innocence.
This presumption of innocence is critical to the criminal process. This keeps judge and jury focused on the right question, did the prosecution provide enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant committed the criminal charges brought against them.
If you have further questions or need help with a criminal case give us a call.
Jeff Hughes, J.D.