Standards of Proof
Standards of Proof is the level of evidence that is needed in order to move along in the criminal justice system. Each standard has a requirement that must be met based off of what a reasonable person would agree to. The standards are different between criminal and civil matters.
The first standard that a member of a law enforcement agency must show is reasonable suspicion in a criminal case. The officer must show that a reasonable person would suspect that a crime has been committed and that the person they are detaining is the one that committed the crime. This is the lowest standard of proof. At this standard, police may detain and question a person if the officer suspects the individual of committing a crime and can articulate their suspicion. Remember, during a custodial interrogation, the officer must read the person their Miranda Rights. It is strongly recommended that a person exercises their right against self incrimination and contact an experienced attorney immediately if they are being interrogated by police in connection to a suspected crime.
The next standard of proof is probable cause. This standard is used for both arrest and search warrants and must be shown by law enforcement before a judge. When issuing an arrest warrant, law enforcement must show that a crime may have been committed. The United States Supreme Court has stated that Probable Cause is “more than bare suspicion”. The Court has also stated Probable Cause exists when the facts and circumstances are sufficient in themselves to warrant someone of reasonable caution to believe that an offense has been or is being committed. When issuing a search warrant, law enforcement must show evidence will be present in the area they would like to search.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
It is the burden of the state to prove to either the judge in a bench trial or the jury in a jury trial that the defendant is guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In the United States, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Reasonable doubt is a doubt based upon reason and common sense after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence received in a trial. It is the kind of doubt that would make a reasonable person hesitate to act. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, must be proof of such a convincing character that a reasonable person would not hesitate to rely and act upon it. This is the highest standard of proof and the threshold is between 98% and 99%.
Preponderance of the Evidence
This is the standard of proof required for most civil cases involving money. For this, the party bearing the burden of proof must present evidence which is more credible and convincing than that presented by the other party or which shows that the fact to be proven is more probable than not. It is typically up to the plaintiff, or the person bringing the case to trial, to provide evidence that shows that the defendant is more than 50% likely to be responsible for whatever they are being sued for.
Clear and Convincing Evidence
Clear and convincing evidence is used in civil trials as well, but mostly in cases that do not involve money. In order to meet the standard and prove something by clear and convincing evidence, the party alleging the contention must prove that the contention is substantially more likely than not that it is true.Examples of these trials include child custody, distribution of wills, and protection from abuse orders.
If you or a loved one is currently involved in a criminal or civil case