Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Every legal system requires some standards of proof for determining guilt and liability. During the infamous witch trials of centuries past, it was sometimes enough to throw an accused “witch” into the river: if she lived, she was considered guilty. Although our society is not immune to mass hysteria, the legal system has much higher standards now for proving legal accusations. The standard most modern legal systems employ in criminal cases is known as “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The term “reasonable doubt” has understandably been the source of controversy. What constitutes a “reasonable” doubt? Attempts at definition often build around the notion of a “reasonable person.” In other words, for a case to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the winning argument must be one that can persuade a rational person whose judgment isn’t impaired or biased. Short of that standard, a case is not adequately proven.
The Burden of Proof
In contrast to the witch trials, those accused of a crime in the United States are legally considered innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof lies on the prosecutor to prove the charges with certainty. While even today there are crimes for which untrue accusations are enough to permanently stain a person’s image, such as child molestation, finger-pointing is not enough for the court. Prosecutors must draw on evidence and testimony to build a coherent argument.
If you have been charged with a crime of which you are innocent, the prosecution will do everything they can to build a convincing case against you. Unfortunately, without the help of an experienced defense lawyer, it can be very difficult to protect yourself against these accusations, even if they are unfounded.