Preponderance of the Evidence vs. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
The rules of civil procedure used by all U.S. Courts require that a plaintiff prove her case by a preponderance of the evidence. This roughly means a greater than 50% chance, based on all the reasonable evidence, that the defendant did the wrong that caused the damage.
The defendant doesn't have to do anything to defend their case if the plaintiff fails to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence.
However, in criminal law there is a much higher burden. The prosecutor must prove that the accused did the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This roughly means that there is a great likelihood the accused committed the crime.
Most courts refuse to attach any numbers to the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but some people believe it means 90%, 95%, or even 99% sure.
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Last Modified: 09-17-2013 02:12 PM PDT
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