Preponderance of the Evidence vs. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 12, 2010 | 0 Comments

In law, we frequently refer to the “burden of proof”. This legal term refers to how much proof the prosecutor or plaintiff needs before he/she can obtain a ruling against the defendant. Two of the most common “burdens” are “preponderance of the evidence” and “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Preponderance of the evidence is most frequently used in civil cases, although it is also used in criminal proceedings as well. It means “more likely than not”. Put another way, if it is 51% likely that the defendant committed the alleged act, he is liable. With respect to criminal proceedings, this burden in sometimes used during hearings, such as a California probation violation hearing.

The reason that a civil burden is used in criminal hearings is because these proceedings don't afford criminal defendants as much protection as criminal trials do. Using the example above, this means that the prosecutor must only prove that it is more likely than not that a defendant violated his probation in order to find him guilty during a California probation violation hearing.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is the typical criminal burden of proof…and a bit trickier to define. It basically means that if there is no reasonable explanation other than the fact that the defendant committed the alleged act, then he must be guilty. This is the burden that is exclusively used during criminal trials, as it is California's highest burden of proof.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California and Nevada. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Regain peace of mind...

Our defense attorneys understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most difficult times of your life. Rely on us to zealously and discreetly protect your rights and to fight for the most favorable resolution possible.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370