Reviewed by Jun 11, 2021| Updated on
Beyond a reasonable doubt is a substantive standard of proof which is required to justify a criminal conviction in most adversarial justice systems. It is a higher standard of proof than the balance of probabilities commonly used in civil matters. It is, therefore, usually reserved for criminal cases where what is at stake is considered more severe and, therefore, worthy of a higher level of likelihood.
The defendant usually bears the burden of evidence in criminal matters and is required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. It means that for a defendant to be found guilty, the prosecution's case must be sufficient to eliminate any reasonable doubt in the court's mind that the defendant is guilty of the crime.
It can be criticized for having a circular definition of the term reasonable doubt consequently. The jurisdictions that rely on this standard of proof also rely on additional or extra steps, such as clear court instructions, which clarify or validate what is meant by a reasonable doubt.
The general principle of the criminal legal system is that the plaintiff must prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt, and the accused will benefit from any reasonable doubt. The reasonable doubt is one which occurs to a prudent and reasonable man. Surely, the uncertainty that the law contemplates is not that of a poor or unduly fickle, careless, indolent, drowsy, or confused mind.
The wise man who is supposed to possess the ability to separate the chaff from the grain must be in question. It is the question that a rational, astute, and alert mind has arrived at every particular situation of the case that emerges from the facts after proper application of mind. It is not a question that happens to a wavering mind. It is this uncertainty that happens to a reasonable man, who has legal recognition in the area of the criminal dispute.