What is Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

In a criminal trial, the defendant enjoys two privileges. The first privilege is that the defendant – the accused – is presumed innocent. This presumption means that the defendant is innocent at the beginning of every trial. And the defendant is innocent until such time as the prosecution provides enough evidence such that every member of the jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt.

If the trial begins, and the prosecution provides no evidence, then under this presumption, the Defendant, as a matter of law, must be found not guilty. And if the trial begins, and the prosecution fails to provide sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the the defendant’s presumption of innocence remains the the defendant must be found not guilty.

THe second privilege is that the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard in our system. It is a higher standard than required to commit someone for insanity. What’s more: the prosecution must prove every element of its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Only when someone considers that high burden, can someone understand how a jury can find a defendant not guilty when the media finds otherwise.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.