Some legal issues require that evidence be “clear and convincing” in order to be used in a civil case. The “Clear and Convincing” legal standard means that the evidence being presented must be “highly” and substantially more probable to be true rather than untrue. Also, the trier of fact needs to have a firm conviction or belief in its factuality.
The clear and convincing standard is also known by other names, including: “Clear, convincing, and satisfactory evidence”; “Clear, unequivocal, satisfactory, and convincing evidence”; and “Clear, cognizant, and convincing evidence. It is used in civil cases where civil liberty interests are at issue or where equitable remedies are involved. The standard is also used in some criminal cases.
The Clear and Convincing evidence standard is a relatively difficult standard to satisfy as it requires that the evidence be “substantially” more probable to be true. In a civil claim, the common evidentiary standard of proof is the “Preponderance of Evidence” standard.
Preponderance of Evidence requires that the evidence be “more likely than not” to prove the matter at hand. In other words, evidence only needs to be greater than a 50% likelihood of being true under the preponderance of evidence standard. Under the clear and convincing standard, the evidence must be substantially greater than a 50% likelihood of being true.
In a criminal trial, clear and convincing is less strict than the “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” standard, which requires that evidence be close to certain of being true.
Thus, the Clear and Convincing standard is more strict than the Preponderance of Evidence standard, but less strict than the Beyond a Reasonable Doubt standard.
The clear and convincing standard is a higher burden of proof and is generally reserved for civil offenses that have special elements to establish. Common cases where the clear and convincing standard would be appropriate include:
- Claims involving fraud
- Claims involving wills and inheritances
- Cases involving important family decisions such as withdrawing life support from a relative.
Thus, the clear and convincing standard is in legal claims where the risk of loss is relatively high. It is also commonly employed when one of the parties stands to lose a substantial amount of money or property, or if a fundamental liberty is involved (such as 1st Amendment free speech concerns).
If your legal claim will require the clear and convincing evidence standard, you may wish to consult with a probate lawyer for advice. It is likely that your claim involves very serious matters that are best overseen by the expertise of a competent attorney. The clear and convincing evidence standard requires careful analysis of all the pieces of evidence involved.