What’s the Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases?

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What's the Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases?

You are presumed innocent until the state proves your guilt.

The burden of proof in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the state fails to meet that burden of proof, a judge or jury could find the criminal defendant not guilty of the criminal charges. 

What Is a Burden of Proof?

What Is a Burden of Proof?

A burden of proof is the minimum level of proof a party must meet to establish a fact in court.

There are different standards of proof used in civil and criminal court cases. The different burdens of proof are:

A Preponderance of the Evidence

This level of proof is used in civil court cases. It requires the plaintiff to prove that is a greater chance something is true than untrue. In other words, there is more than a 50% chance that events unfolded as you allege. 

Clear and Convincing Evidence 

This burden of proof is also used in non-criminal cases. It is a tougher burden of proof to meet than a preponderance of the evidence, but not as high as beyond a reasonable doubt. It requires jurors to believe the evidence proves a fact is substantially more likely to be true than untrue.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

This burden of proof is the highest level of proof. It is used in criminal court cases. It requires the state to convince the jurors there is no other reasonable explanation other than the defendant’s guilt based on the evidence presented. 

Criminal cases require the highest burden of proof in law because a person’s freedom is at stake. The law should not send a person to prison if there is any doubt the person is guilty of their charges.

How Does the Prosecutor Meet the Burden of Proof in a San Jose Criminal Case?

The prosecutor must prove each of the legal elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors may use a variety of evidence to prove a person is guilty. Examples of evidence in a criminal case include, but are not limited to:

  • Forensic evidence gathered at the crime scene or during the investigation
  • Expert testimony 
  • Photographic and video evidence
  • Testimony from law enforcement officers
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Diagrams and charts
  • Physical evidence 
  • Documentary evidence 
  • DNA evidence 

The California Evidence Code governs the types of evidence allowed in a criminal case. Your defense lawyer might file motions to suppress evidence. If the judge suppresses the evidence, the state cannot use the evidence during your trial.

Does the Defendant Have a Burden of Proof in a San Jose Criminal Case?

The defendant does not have a burden of proof by default in a criminal case. They are presumed innocent. Nonetheless, the defendant in a criminal case may have the burden of proof for any affirmative defenses they wish to raise.

Regardless, that does not mean you do not need to hire a criminal defense attorney and fight criminal charges. Innocent people can and do go to jail. 

Furthermore, you have the right to present evidence to refute the state’s claims you committed a crime. A criminal defense lawyer may use several defense strategies to refute the state’s evidence, such as:

  • Law enforcement officers violated the defendant’s civil rights through an illegal search and seizure
  • Police officers entrapped the defendant 
  • The evidence the state presents is unreliable
  • The police did not have probable cause for an arrest
  • The defendant was coerced into making a confession
  • The police officers mishandled the evidence resulting in a chain-of-custody issue
  • The defendant’s actions were legal or justified, such as acting in self-defense 
  • Argue against aggravating factors 
  • Introduce evidence of mitigating factors

A successful defense can raise doubts about your guilt. It only takes one juror to have reasonable doubt for the judge to order a mistrial. Experienced defense lawyers know how to present evidence that tells a different story than the prosecutor’s view of what happened. 

Should I Go to Trial or Take a Plea Deal?

Deciding to go to trial in a criminal case can be a difficult decision. If you are found guilty, you could face severe penalties. Even if you believe you have a strong case, you never know what jurors might decide after hearing the evidence.

With a plea agreement, you know your punishment before you plead guilty or no contest. However, you will have a criminal record, which could have collateral consequences.

Before entering a plea agreement, talk with an experienced San Jose criminal lawyer. An attorney analyzes the evidence the state has against you. The lawyer gives you an honest assessment of whether the state has a solid case against you.

If you decide to enter a plea bargain, a lawyer can help you negotiate the best plea deal available. 

Contact Us for a Free Consultation With Our San Jose Criminal Defense Lawyers

Even if you are innocent, you need an attorney to help you fight criminal charges. Our team of criminal defense lawyers at Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys, understands what is at stake and will fight to protect your rights. Call now for a free case evaluation at (408) 217-8818 with a San Jose criminal defense attorney.

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