Reasonable Doubt

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Definition of Reasonable Doubt

Reasonable doubt is the legal standard used in the United States in criminal trials. Prior to initiating a criminal trial the jury is instructed that they must find the defendant guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" as "proof of such a convincing character that a reasonable person would not hesitate to rely and act upon it in the most important of his own affairs". If the jury has reasonable doubt after hearing all of the evidence this means they did not believe the evidence presented was convincing enough to prove the defendant committed the crime.

If a claimant files a case in civil court there is a lower burden of proof to win damages. Most civil cases require the plaintiff to prove their case "through a preponderance of evidence". Criminal cases have a higher level of proof because our society believes "it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free".

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