In the United States criminal justice system, persons are presumed to be innocent when they are arrested and charged with a crime. Before a defendant may be found guilty of any charges, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had wronged him to a certain level.
The prosecution must convince a judge and/or jury panel that the defendant has committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The criminal defendant does not have the job of showing that he or she is innocent. In fact, many cases are won by the simple fact that the prosecution has not met its burden to show that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The burden of proof is so high in criminal cases because the consequences are more serious that those in civil cases.
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.
Imagine that you are on trial for manslaughter, and the prosecution was only able to convince the jury panel that you had a 75% chance of committing the crime. Because the jury is 25% uncertain, the prosecution was not successful in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty.
In order to qualify as beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury would need to be 98 to 99% sure. In this case, the jury was only 75% sure and as a result, you cannot be convicted.
If you are facing criminal charges, then you need to consult a criminal lawyer. The criminal law lawyer will help you strategize and ensure that the opponent meet the difficult level of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt. Each criminal charge has different requirements to meet the burden of proof, so it is important that you and your lawyer fully understand the nature of your charges. If you misunderstand what you are facing, then you risk the chance of losing your case and serious penalties.