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What’s the Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases?

If you’re facing criminal charges, where the stakes include potential loss of liberty and other severe consequences, understanding the burden of proof should be one of your first steps. It determines who must establish proof and to what degree in order to show that a defendant is guilty. You’ll want to make sure you understand this legal standard and what you can do to defend yourself.

The Burden of Proof – Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The Burden of Proof – Beyond a Reasonable Doubt The term “beyond a reasonable doubt” refers to the level of certainty required for a jury or judge to legally convict a defendant in a criminal trial. This standard is the highest threshold in all court systems in the United States – with civil cases needing less evidence to obtain a judgment.

This standard requires the prosecution to prove each element of the offense to the point that there is no logical explanation, based on the evidence presented, other than that a defendant is guilty. It doesn’t require absolute certainty or proof beyond all possible doubt but does demand a high level of certainty before an individual’s liberty can be lawfully taken away.

How Prosecutors Prove Guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

To prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors construct their cases with solid evidence. Here’s what they generally present to the judge or jury to try to prove their case:


Prosecutors aim to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt primarily by presenting reliable and compelling pieces of evidence, such as tangible items related to the crime, including weapons, clothing, DNA samples like hair or blood, and fingerprints found at the scene. The prosecutor will also use video footage and photos if available.

Victim Testimony

This includes statements from the person directly harmed or affected by the alleged crime. Their account of events can be central in cases like assault, robbery, or other personal crimes. In cases where there is no specific victim – like a DUI case – the police officer who arrested the defendant will testify against them to try to prove the case.

Witness Testimony

The prosecution may also offer accounts from those who witnessed or observed something related to the crime. The strength of witness testimony heavily relies on their credibility, consistency in recounting events surrounding the offense, and their objectivity.

Expert Witnesses

Experts are introduced by prosecutors when there’s a need to explain complex evidence through individuals with particular expertise in fields such as forensics, ballistics, drugs, or DNA analysis. Their role is pivotal in helping juries and judges understand technical or scientific data, often significantly helping to establish facts beyond a reasonable doubt.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it provides an overview of the types of evidence prosecutors may use to try to meet their burden of proof.

How a Defendant Can Fight Criminal Charges

Having a strong legal strategy is essential. There are various defenses your attorney can raise depending on the specifics of your charges, with some common ones including:


If there’s evidence that you were somewhere else at the time the crime was committed, your lawyer can present proof of your alibi. This could include video surveillance, documentation like receipts or tickets, and testimony from witnesses who were with you.


In cases where the alleged offense involves harming another person (for example, in assault or homicide charges), if it occurred as a means of protecting yourself from imminent harm or injury, using self-defense as an argument can be appropriate.

False Accusations

Using the argument of false accusations is needed when you are innocent and have been wrongly accused due to mistaken identity, misinterpretation of facts, or malicious intent on somebody else’s part. Careful cross-examination of witnesses might reveal inconsistencies in the prosecution’s story that support your claim.

Constitutional Violations

Another strategy involves challenging procedural errors, such as violations of constitutional rights during the investigation and arrest process. Issues such as illegal searches and seizures, lack of Miranda warnings, coerced confessions, or any form of law enforcement misconduct can be grounds to suppress evidence or potentially dismiss charges.

Contact an Experienced Phoenix Criminal Defense Lawyer For Help With Your Case

To defend against criminal charges, challenge the prosecutor’s case, and raise reasonable doubt, you must work closely with a highly skilled criminal defense attorney who can present the best possible defense on your behalf.

For help with your criminal case, contact Orent Law Offices, PLC at (480) 656-7301 today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney.

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