What Does “Beyond A Reasonable Doubt” Mean?

When you are on trial in front of a jury, they are given specific instructions. One thing they are told is that they should only judge someone as guilty if they see proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But what exactly does that mean, and what difference does that make in the typical criminal case? Our Hartford County criminal defense attorneys can help you answer these questions.

Why Reasonable Doubt and Not Absolute Doubt?

Proving something beyond a reasonable doubt essentially means that if the average, rational person looks at the facts presented, they would be reasonable to assume that your version of events is the true one. This is the burden of proof on the prosecution. They have to present the evidence in such a way that their explanation for things, that the defendant is guilty of the crimes they are charged with, is the only explanation that seems rational.

Proving something beyond an absolute doubt would be nearly impossible. In most cases, it would not be possible to know exactly what happened with absolute certainty. So reasonable doubt is the standard, and the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. The juror must start with the presumption of innocence and only find the defendant guilty if the prosecution does its job.

How Can You Create Reasonable Doubt?

In a criminal case, creating reasonable doubt in the heads of the jurors is essentially the defense attorney’s job. The prosecution builds their case and tells the jury what they believe happened. Then your lawyer can pick apart the state’s case against you, no matter how well-crafted it seems.

There are a few good ways to do this. One popular method is going after the prosecution’s witnesses. Your lawyer will also have the chance to interview these witnesses. This is called cross-examination, and it gives the jury a chance to see how a witness holds up under scrutiny. Maybe they had their story rehearsed well enough for the prosecutor, but some questioning from your attorney reveals some holes in the scenario they just presented to the jury. A lawyer can also attack the credibility of the witness by bringing up a criminal background or prior acts that could make them seem less reliable to the jury.

Presenting an alternative theory of the crime is also effective. Is there another potential suspect? Could there be another explanation, aside from the prosecution’s, for what happened here? A credible theory, bolstered by the testimony of expert witnesses and the introduction of evidence, can create reasonable doubt.

Contact Our Attorneys Today

Fighting back against criminal charges on your own is incredibly difficult, and a public defender may not have the time to give your case the individual attention it deserves. If you are looking for an experienced criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Marc N. Needelman and schedule your consultation.

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