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Attorneys sometimes glaze over certain terms without making sure you fully understand them.  “Burden of proof” is one of those, and it will undoubtedly arise during your case.  This is one phrase that you must understand because can change depending on the type of case or even the proceeding.  The following is a brief overview of burdens of proof.

Criminal cases are more complicated

Criminal cases have three standards of proof: reasonable suspicion, probable cause and beyond a reasonable doubt.

Reasonable suspicion is the amount of evidence an officer needs to stop someone on the street and ask them questions.  For this, the officer must be able to articulate that a person has been, is, or is about to commit a crime.

Probable cause is the amount of evidence an officer needs to make an arrest.  This means that the officer must have probable cause, which is a reasonable belief that the person has committed a crime. Probable cause is not enough evidence to convict; it is only the amount of evidence needed to make an arrest.  Probable cause is also the amount of evidence that a grand jury needs to indict a case.  This is why many cases are indicted, but fewer are able to be proven to a jury.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is the amount of evidence a prosecutor must present to a jury to obtain a conviction at trial.

Knowledge Center:

Example of burdens of proof in a criminal case.

Levels of proof chart: The following chart is helpful in explaining the levels of proof.

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