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Waldorf, MD Criminal Defense: What is the Meaning of “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?”

If you are arrested in Waldorf or elsewhere in Southern Maryland for a crime, call us here at the Law Office of Robert Castro. You want to hire the best Maryland criminal defense team that you can find. Our number is (301) 705-5253 and we are available around the clock, 24/7. We are proven and experienced.

If your Maryland criminal case goes to trial, it is important to understand what the Maryland government prosecutors must prove and also the high level of proof that is required. What legal elements must be proven will depend on the criminal charges. However, whatever the charges, the prosecutors must prove ALL of the legal elements with enough evidence to convince the jury of the truth “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In this article, we will explain the meaning of the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Different Levels of Proof for Different Types of Cases

In the law, “beyond a reasonable doubt” is called a “burden of proof.” A burden of proof is essentially a level of conviction that a fact-finder — like a member of a criminal jury — must have in the truth of what is being presented in the courtroom. There are different levels of proof for different kinds of cases. For a civil case — like a Maryland auto accident and personal injury case — the burden is called a “preponderance of the evidence.” This is widely defined as a conviction at the level of 51% to 49% more likely than not. That is, the fact-finder — the jury — must only believe the evidence of one party or the other at the level of “more likely than not.” But, it can be just barely more likely than not. That is, it is 51% likely to be true as opposed to 49% unlikely to be true.

In civil cases, sometimes, there is a higher burden of proof required. In those cases, the burden of proof is called “clear and convincing” evidence. This is often defined as evidence that is convincing at a 67% or 75% level of confidence.

By contrast, in ALL criminal cases, the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This standard is significantly higher than the “clearing and convincing standard,” although no judges, lawyers, or legal scholars are willing to put a percentage number to the needed level of confidence.

What the Maryland Criminal Court Will Define as “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”

In Maryland criminal cases, before the jury considers whether to declare a criminal defendant innocent or guilty, the Maryland criminal court judge will give a set of instructions. Most of the instructions are pre-printed and approved by the higher courts. These are called “pattern criminal jury instructions.” There is a Maryland criminal pattern jury instruction that defines “beyond a reasonable doubt.” See MPJI-CR 2:02. It has three paragraphs that state (emphasis added):

“The defendant is presumed to be innocent of the charges. This presumption remains with the defendant throughout every stage of the trial and is not overcome unless you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

“The State has the burden of proving the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. This burden remains on the State throughout the trial. The defendant is not required to prove [his][her] innocence. However, the State is not required to prove guilt beyond all possible doubt or to a mathematical certainty. Nor is the State required to negate every conceivable circumstance of innocence.

“A reasonable doubt is a doubt founded upon reason. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt requires such proof as would convince you of the truth of a fact to the extent that you would be willing to act upon such belief without reservation in an important matter in your own business or personal affairs. However, if you are not satisfied of the defendant’s guilt to that extent, then reasonable doubt exists and the defendant must be found not guilty.”

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301)705-5137. We are Waldorf, MD Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD 20601.