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The Burden of Proof Explained

Broward criminal lawyer William Moore knows that most people are familiar with the concept of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This complicated standard is known in the legal community as the burden of proof. In order for someone to be convicted of a crime, the judge or jury must find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof in a criminal case falls on the prosecution: the state attorney is responsible for demonstrating the criminal defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor fails to meet that burden, the defendant cannot be convicted of the crime and must go free.

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Moore explains that the burden of proof must be satisfied by the introduction of evidence into the courtroom. For example, the prosecutor cannot speculate about facts or make crazy claims about the defendant without an evidentiary basis. In order to build a criminal case, the prosecutor must instead demonstrate the defendant’s guilt by providing evidence to show what the state believes occurred.

Broward criminal lawyer Moore says this can be accomplished in a variety of ways. One of the most common forms of evidence is testimony. A prosecutor can call witnesses who have personal knowledge of facts that tend to prove the defendant’s guilt, such as a garbage collector who saw a murder defendant place a bloodied knife into a trash bag the morning after his neighbor was stabbed to death. High profile cases, especially (although certainly not exclusively) capital murder trials, are known for the use of expert witnesses. Although these witnesses do not have personal knowledge about events related to the crime or the allegations against the defendant, their expertise in their field allows the court to give their testimony credibility due to their particularized understanding of the facts.

Famously, Marisa Tomei’s character in the movie My Cousin Vinny served as an expert witness for auto mechanics. A clip of the opening statements from that movie can be found below:

The prosecutor can also introduce “real evidence,” or actual items. He might bring a scratched up baseball bat into court if the state believes that the defendant used that bat to smash the windshield of his girlfriend’s car. Likewise, a murder weapon would be considered real evidence. Criminal defense attorneys, like prosecutors, introduce testimony and other evidence in their clients’ defense. For instance, a criminal lawyer might call a witness to testify to the defendant’s whereabouts at the time of the crime – an alibi.

The standard to convict a person of a crime is much higher than to award damages in a civil case. For example, in most civil cases, a jury or a judge will only have to find that the plaintiff proved his case by a preponderance of the evidence. Put another way, that standard means “it is more likely than not that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the defendant.” Criminal cases are subject to a much higher burden of proof due to the very serious nature of a conviction and the possibility of penalties such as imprisonment.

Broward criminal lawyer William Moore has experience in all kinds of criminal defense, including sex crimes and DUI. A conviction for a felony or misdemeanor can have consequences on your freedom, your employment, and your personal life. If you have been charged with a crime in Florida, contact William Moore, P.A., which is an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal law firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale-Dade, Broward, and Fort Lauderdale Counties.

This article should be used for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice nor as implied representation of any person.

Article contributed by Mallory Shipman, Esq.

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William is an amazing lawyer on the first day he took my case from a felony to a misdemeanor. He always answered my calls and text messages, never a problem. He was always the one in court not sending someone else, unlike my last lawyer. 10/10 would recommend. If I ever have any other problems, he will be the first person I call. Shane B.