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Burden of Proof

Definition - What does Burden of Proof mean?

What is a legal burden of proof?

Essentially, there are two parts to understanding the term "burden of proof":

  • burden of production (also known as evidential burden): to go forward with the evidence of proving a solidified case
  • burden of persuasion (also known as the risk of nonpersuasion): the sole responsibility of the person bringing the proof of evidence or facts during the court proceeding. 

An example of this would be that the presumption of innocense in a criminal case, including a DUI charge that is attached with special circustances that constitute criminal charges, places a legal burden upon the prosecution to prove all elements of the offense (usually beyond a reasonable doubt), and to disprove all of the defenses unless they are qualified as affirmed. Meaning, if the defense attorney can prove that the arguments are sound, and constitutionally then the prosecution does not have to prove they are false and will proceed to proving the alegations that are not surrounded in doubt are in fact truth and the charges are valid based upon those truths. It is important to note that the burden of persuasion should not be confused with the evidential burden. Evidential burden is where the obligation to prove factual evidence shifts between people throughout the hearing or trial, and where the burden to produce sufficient evidence to properly raise an issue at court. 

How will the burden of proof affect my trial?

In the United States, it is required that the party has produced sufficient evidence that will shift the conclusion away from the default position to one's own position. In layman's terms, that means that the necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays the charges, like the prosecution. The person who does not carry the burden of proof, meaning the client who is being charged, will carry the benifit of assumption. This means that you do not need any evidence to support your claim. Fulfilling the burden of proof effectively captures the benefit of assumption, passing the burden of proof off to the prosecution where they absolutely must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are completely guilty of the charges and all allegations set against you at trial. In a civil case the plaintiff sets froth its alleations in a complaint, petition or other pleading. The defendant, you, would then be required to file a responsive pleading denying some or all of the allegations and giving any affirmative facts in defense. Each side, the prosecuting and the defending, will carry the burden of proof of the allegations. 

Are there legal standards for burden of proof?

There are eight legal standards:

  • Reasonable Suspicion - low standard of proof to determine whether a brief invistagative stop or search by a police officer or any government agent is warrented.
  • Reasonable to Believe - applies only to vehicle searches after the suspect has been placed under arrest and there is more evidence believed to be in the vehicle of the actual crime for which the suspect was arrested. (this is still under an ongoing debate as to determine the exact definition and the application of it, as courts and law enforcement agents do not agree)
  • Probable Cause - relatively low standard of proof, and used in the United States to determine whether a search or arrest is warrented. For a grand jury, it is used to issue an indictment.
  • Some Credible Evidence - one of the least reliable standards of proof, as it becomes a legal placeholder to process claims (such as with Child Protective Services) and hold the suspect to do more investigating on the charges set forth.
  • Substantial Evidence - enough evidence to prove reasonable means of holding someone who is directly tied to factual findings.
  • Preponderance of the Evidence - this balance of the probabilities is the standard required in most civil cases and in family court. It is also the burden of proof where the defendent must prove affirmative defenses or mitigating circumstances in civil or criminal court.
  • Clear and Convincing Evidence - higher level of burden of persuasion than "ponderance of the evidence". It is applied in cases or situations involving an equitable remedy or where a presumptive civil liberty interest exists.
  • Beyond Reasonable Doubt - the highest standard used as the burden of proof, and only applies in criminal proceedings and when considering aggravating circumstances in criminal proceedings. 

Are there any non-legal standards of burden of proof?

There is only one: beyond the shadow of a doubt. This is the strictist standard of proof, and requires that there be no doubt as to the issue at hand. This is typically considered and impossible standard, because the situation stems from the actual nature of knowlege to make this applicable. Although not considered any viable or authentical reason to hold, and is not recognized by the court because it is not legal, this phrase has come to be associated with the law in popular culture. 

(Read more: - court - DUI Law - state laws )

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