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The Definition of Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

definition guilty beyond a reasonable doubt

We’ve discussed what “beyond a reasonable doubt” means several times before, here and here. However, it’s necessary in this case to show the connection between this idea and “innocent until proven guilty.” If you recall from last week, this phrase means that the court needs to assume the innocence of the accused until the facts prove their guilt. Thus, if someone accuses you of robbery, you’re considered innocent of robbery until the evidence proves your guilt. Yet, at what point is guilt proven? Is it legal to convict someone of a crime if the court thinks they probably or likely did it? We’ll discuss all this and more as we give you the definition of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Definition of Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

First, let’s define this phrase, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Cornell Law School describes the idea this way: “the prosecution must convince the jury that there is no other reasonable explanation that can come from the evidence presented at trial.” Think of it in terms of a spectrum:

  • Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt
  • Most likely guilty
  • Probably guilty
  • Suspected
  • Probably not guilty
  • Most likely not guilty
  • Proven not guilty

In a criminal case, even if the accused seems “most likely guilty,” they should not be convicted. Other possible explanations for the crime exist that do not involve the defendant. Even if those possible explanations seem improbable.

Applying the Definition of Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Second, what does this mean for your case? It means that the prosecution does not necessarily need to positively prove the defendant committed the crime. Instead, they first want to review what happened in the crime. Then, they want to show that the only reasonable explanation for what happened is that the defendant committed the crime. Therefore, the defense does not necessarily have to prove the defendant’s innocence. Instead, they want to poke holes in the prosecution’s argument. They want to highlight other possible explanations. They don’t have to convince the jury of a defendant’s innocence, only bring out the jury’s ambivalence and uncertainty about the defendant.

If You Need an Attorney, You Know Who to Call

Finally, as you can see, attorney Mark Catanzaro really knows his stuff. We’ve given you the definition of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but he can use that in court. He can get the jury on your side! So if you need the best defense attorney, contact him today.


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