Anyone who has been charged with a crime or even watched a legal drama on television has heard about the concept of reasonable doubt. One cornerstone of the American justice system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and to be proven guilty, that guilt must be shown beyond reasonable doubt. Here, we explore reasonable doubt and explain how it can help protect those accused of a crime.
What Is Meant by “Reasonable Doubt?”
In a criminal trial, the innocence of the defendant is assumed, and it is up to the prosecutor to show that he is guilty of the crime. Reasonable doubt is the standard that the prosecutor must meet. It is the highest burden of proof in the American justice system, and it means that no other logical explanation can be drawn except that the defendant committed the crime. It asks jurors to consider if a rational, reasonable person would draw the same conclusion from the same facts.
Reasonable doubt is a much stricter standard than those in other types of trials. Civil cases are decided by what is known as a preponderance of evidence, meaning that it only needs to be likely that the person is guilty.
How Reasonable Doubt Can Help a Virginia Criminal Defendant
Under a reasonable doubt burden of proof, it is not enough that a person probably committed a crime. The evidence must be so convincing as to lead to a logical conclusion of guilt, and there must be no other reasonable scenario in which another person could have committed the crime. The burden of meeting this standard, however, is on the prosecution. The person charged with the crime is not obligated to prove that he did not commit the crime; the prosecution must overcome the assumption of innocence to prove that he did. In theory, this puts the prosecution at a disadvantage.
An experienced criminal defense attorney understands how this system works, and a knowledgeable legal team can help present evidence to create doubt. To do so, an effective legal team can:
- Identify jurors who understand and will adhere to the principle of innocent until proven guilty
- Pose questions left unanswered by the prosecution
- Present reasonable alternative possibilities
If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime in Virginia, experienced representation can help find evidence and present the factors that can create reasonable doubt. At Tavss Fletcher, our tenacious attorneys seek to mitigate the negative effects of a criminal charge for every client, and we may be able to help. Call our Norfolk office today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.