EditWatch this pageRead in another language
"Beyond a reasonable doubt" redirects here. For other uses, see Beyond a reasonable doubt (disambiguation).
For other uses, see Reasonable doubt (disambiguation).
Reasonable doubt is a term used in jurisdiction of Anglo-Saxon countries. Evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt is the standard of evidence required to validate a criminal conviction in most adversarial legal systems.
Generally, prosecutors bear the burden of proof and are required to prove their version of events to this standard. This means that the proposition being presented by the prosecution must be proven to the extent that there could be no "reasonable doubt" in the mind of a "reasonable person" that the defendant is guilty. There can still be a doubt, but only to the extent that it would not affect a reasonable person's belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty. Beyond "the shadow of a doubt" is sometimes used interchangeably with beyond reasonable doubt, but this extends beyond the latter, to the extent that it may be considered an impossible standard. The term "reasonable doubt" is therefore used.
If doubt does affect a "reasonable person's" belief that the defendant is guilty, the jury is not satisfied beyond "reasonable doubt". The precise meaning of words such as "reasonable" and "doubt" are usually defined within jurisprudence of the applicable country. A related idea is Blackstone's formulation "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer".
Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof in any court in the United States. Criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
By jurisdiction Edit
United Kingdom Edit
England and Wales Edit
In English common law prior to the "reasonable doubt" standard, passing judgment in criminal trials had severe religious repercussions for jurors. According to judicial law prior to the 1780s: "the Juryman who finds any other person guilty, is liable to the Vengeance of God upon his Family and Trade, Body and Soul, in this world and that to come." It was also believed "In every case of doubt, where one’s salvation is in peril, one must always take the safer way.... A judge who is in doubt must refuse to judge." It was in reaction to these "religious fears" that "reasonable doubt" was introduced in the late 18th century to English common law, thereby allowing jurors to more easily convict. Therefore, the original use of the "reasonable doubt" standard was opposite to its modern use of limiting a juror's ability to convict.
However, juries in criminal courts in England are no longer customarily directed to consider whether there is "reasonable doubt" about a defendant's guilt. Indeed, a 2008 conviction was appealed after the judge had said to the jury "You must be satisfied of guilt beyond all reasonable doubt." The conviction was upheld but the Appeal Court made clear their unhappiness with the judge's remark, indicating that the judge should instead have said to the jury simply that before they can return a verdict of guilty, they "must be sure that the defendant is guilty".
The principle of 'beyond reasonable doubt' was expounded in: Woolmington v DPP  UKHL 1 
Juries are always told that if conviction there is to be the prosecution must prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. This statement cannot mean that in order to be acquitted the prisoner must "satisfy" the jury. This is the law as laid down in the Court of Criminal Appeal in R. v. Davies (8 C.A.R. 211) the head-note of which correctly states that where | intent is an ingredient of a crime there is no onus on the Defendant to prove that the act alleged was accidental. Throughout the web of the English Criminal Law one golden thread is always to be seen that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner's guilt subject to what I have already said as to the defense of insanity and subject also to any statutory exception. If, at the end of and on the whole of the case, there is a reasonable doubt, created by the evidence given by either the prosecution or the prisoner, as to whether the prisoner killed the deceased with a malicious intention, the prosecution has not made out the case and the prisoner is entitled to an acquittal. No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England and no attempt to whittle it down can be entertained