The burden of proof is a party’s obligation to prove allegations or a defense in a court case. The legal standard that the party must meet to prove its case depends on the type of case being argued.
The burden of proof in a criminal proceeding is higher than the burden of proof in civil matters. The state has the burden of persuasion to provide evidence that convinces the factfinder (jury or judge) that a specific fact is true to a specific degree of belief.
The Different Burdens of Proof Required to Win Cases
The burden of proof is the minimal level of proof a party must meet to win a court case. A party may not be required to prove their case by 100 percent certainty. Some cases only require a more than one-half chance that the allegations are true for the party to have proved their case.
Before a case can go to court, the party with the burden of proof has the burden of production to prove that they have sufficient evidence to present a case to a jury. The burden of production must be met or the judge may issue a directed verdict or grant a motion to dismiss a case without the case going to trial.
The three thresholds of the burden of proof are:
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Proof in criminal cases of guilt must be beyond a reasonable doubt. A prosecutor has the burden of proving you committed the crime beyond any reasonable doubt. This evidence standard is the highest burden of proof used in trials.
Evidence a prosecutor might present during a criminal trial includes:
- Physical evidence
- Eyewitness testimony
- Police testimony
- Video evidence
- Forensic evidence
- Expert testimony
The evidence in a criminal trial must be so strong that the jurors have no reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. The Ohio Rules of Evidence govern the admissibility and the type of evidence used in state court cases.
When a prosecutor fails to meet the burden of proof, the court case should be dismissed, or the defendant should be found not guilty.
Jurors are the triers of fact in a criminal proceeding. They hear the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense. The jurors must decide which evidence to believe. They might give more weight to specific pieces of evidence or testimony.
The jurors in a criminal case must return a unanimous verdict for the person to be guilty of the crime. Even if just one jury member has reasonable doubt, the defendant cannot be found guilty of the crime.
A preponderance of the Evidence
Proving your case by a preponderance of the evidence means that there is a greater than 50 percent chance the facts you present are true. This burden of proof is the standard of evidence used in most civil court cases, including personal injury cases, administrative law hearings, and family court matters.
In civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that their alleged facts against the defendant are true by a preponderance of the evidence. If the plaintiff fails to prove through evidence that the allegations against the defendant are more likely true than not true, the jury should rule in favor of the defendant.
This burden of proof is the lowest level of proof required in a trial.
Clear and Convincing Evidence
The burden of proving allegations by clear and convincing evidence is a higher standard than a preponderance of the evidence, but a lower standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt. Plaintiffs alleging punitive damages in a personal injury case must prove their allegations by clear and convincing evidence to justify an award of punitive damages.
Clear and convincing evidence requires that the plaintiff prove that a fact is substantially more likely to be true than not true. A higher level of proof for punitive damages is required because punitive damages “punish” a defendant instead of compensating an accident victim for damages.
As with a preponderance of the evidence, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.
Does a Defendant in a Criminal Case Have a Burden to Prove Their Innocence?
The defendant in a criminal case does not have a burden to prove their innocence. They do not need to prove they are innocent. The entire burden of proof rests with the prosecution.
However, a defendant has the right to present a defense to the criminal allegations. The defense may include cross-examining witnesses presented by the prosecution. The defense may also present evidence refuting the evidence presented by the defense.
A defendant may raise specific affirmative defenses in a criminal case. If a defendant raises an affirmative defense, the defendant has the burden of proving the defense.
Affirmative defenses may vary from state to state. The criminal code of a state determines which affirmative defenses might be raised in criminal cases. Examples of affirmative defenses in criminal cases include, but are not limited to:
- Self-defense (e.g., shooting someone who breaks into your house)
- Mental disease or defect (lack of capacity to stand trial)
- Insanity defense
- Defense of others or defense of property
- Emergency, necessity, or duress
- Statute of limitations (deadlines for filing criminal charges)
The types of affirmative defenses available depend upon the facts of the case. A Dayton criminal defense attorney can help you explore affirmative defenses that you might use to file criminal charges.
What Should You Do if You Are Arrested in Dayton, OH?
Don’t panic. Remember, you have the right to remain silent and the right to talk to a criminal defense lawyer. Invoke both of those rights immediately.
Talking to the police, making statements, and answering any questions without a lawyer is not in your best interest. Your comments could be used as evidence to prove your guilt in court.
Police officers can lie. Do not necessarily believe what they say about making matters better by answering their questions. Instead, respectfully and clearly state you intend to remain silent and you want an attorney.
A criminal defense lawyer investigates the charges against you and analyzes the state’s evidence regarding criminal charges. Your lawyer searches for violations of your civil liberties that could result in a motion to suppress evidence. Your attorney also determines the best way to fight the criminal charges.
Contact Our Dayton Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation
Do not assume that “innocent until proven guilty” will prevent you from going to prison for criminal charges. You need to fight criminal charges with a strong defense.
Our criminal defense attorneys in Dayton have extensive experience fighting for the rights of individuals charged with crimes. Call us today to schedule your free case evaluation.