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Understanding Standards of Proof in Criminal Cases

August 8, 2016 By Jeff King

The legal universe people most commonly come into contact with are divided into two different worlds: criminal and civil. While both worlds exist within the justice system, there are many differences in how criminal and civil law are applied, though those differences are mostly known by lawyers and not lay people.

One of the big differences between civil and criminal court cases is the standard of proof that is needed to get a final result from a jury. Famously, the standard of obtaining a conviction in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. And for a civil case that standard is a preponderance of the evidence, or fifty-one percent. The criminal standard is more widely known, but is it properly applied in criminal cases?

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

When we talk about beyond a reasonable doubt, there is more there than meets the ear. In the first place, this standard of proof applies to the prosecution in a criminal case. Meaning it is the prosecutors who must prove their allegations to an impartial judge or jury, beyond a reasonable doubt. But the standard goes even deeper than that, because we do not ask them to simply prove one thing happened beyond a reasonable doubt. To obtain a conviction in a criminal case, the state is required to provide every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

The description of each crime a person can be accused of committing is found in the city, county, state, or federal code books. Within each description of those crimes are elements to the crime. For some crimes, like DWI, there are few elements that need to be proven to get a conviction. But in other cases, such as computer crimes, there are multiple elements involved in establishing criminal intent and action.

Proving a Case

Up to this point, our discussion of standards of proof have been academic. In order to actually get a conviction, a prosecutor will have to present her evidence to a jury and argue that the evidence presented means the defendant committed a crime. At this juncture, prosecutors are somewhat at an advantage for several reasons. One major reason is the inherent trust comes with the police testifying and the prosecution even putting on case. After all, both these groups are representative of society.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Despite the advantages a prosecutor may enjoy in prosecuting a case and proving the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant has many important advantages of his one. In the first instance, those accused of a crime should be presented to a judge and jury as innocent of all wrongdoing until proven otherwise. Another important advantage that a defendant can have is in the attorney he chooses to represent him.

The Importance of a Defense Attorney

There are many important aspects to successfully representing a defendant facing criminal charges. A successful defense begins and ends with inserting doubt and questions into the minds of prosecutors, judges, and jurors on exactly what happened and whether the prosecution’s theory of what may have happened is correct. This is why hiring the right attorney is key to any defendant’s case.

Jeff King is just the attorney your case needs. With experience as both a prosecutor and Dallas criminal defense attorney, Jeff can ensure that you get every advantage available to your case. If you are facing state or federal charges in Texas, contact us. We will help you understand what your legal options are.

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