What is a Reasonable Doubt?
In every criminal case, the State must prove your guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. This is the highest burden of proof in our legal system. Other burdens of proof include preponderance of the evidence and clear and convincing evidence. Beyond a reasonable doubt is higher than any of them. You do not have to prove anything. The State must prove each and every element beyond a reasonable doubt.
A "reasonable doubt" is defined by what it is not, rather than what it is.
A reasonable doubt is not:
- a mere possible doubt
- a speculative doubt
- imaginary doubt
- forced doubt
Such a doubt must not influence a juror to return a verdict of not guilty if he or she has an abiding conviction of guilty.
On the other hand, if after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence,, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or if having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and the jury must find you not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.
Reasonable doubt can arise from evidence, conflict in evidence or a lack of evidence.
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