In the United States legal system, there are two standards of proof that must be met before the judge decides who wins a case. Civil courts use a lower standard of “preponderance of evidence”, while criminal courts use a higher standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Civil courts require a plaintiff to prove her case by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the person who is suing (i.e. Plaintiff) must prove that there is a greater than 50% chance, based on all the reasonable evidence, that the defendant did the wrong that caused the damage. The plaintiff can use testimonial and physical evidence to prove her case.
The defendant does not have to do anything to defend their case if the plaintiff fails to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. And as a result, the defendant wins.
However, in criminal courts, there is a higher level of proof. The prosecutor must prove that the accused did the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This means there is a great likelihood that the accused committed the crime.
Although most courts refuse to attach any numbers to the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt,” some people believe it means 90%, 95%, or even 99% confidence that the accused did the crime.
If you are involved in a legal action, you should consult with an experienced attorney to ensure that your case is effectively represented in court.
Last Modified: 10-03-2014 07:57 AM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.