24 Hour Toll Free Help

Reasonable Doubt

« Back to Glossary

Definition - What does Reasonable Doubt mean?

Reasonable doubt is the highest legal standard in the United States and is the standard of proof used in criminal trials. Federal jury instructions describe finding a 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".

Reasonable doubt may occur in a jury trial after the jury hears all of the prosecutor's evidence in a criminal case and does not believe the evidence was compelling enough to erase doubts that the crime was actually committed or the defendant was the person who perpetuated the crime.

Reasonable doubt is used in criminal trials because the courts acknowledge that the defendant's liberty is challenged. Lower burdens of proof exist in civil trials where the prosecution must only prove that there is a preponderance of evidence or that the prosecution has more evidence than the defense. Proving criminal cases "beyond a reasonable doubt" is based on "a fundamental value determination of our society that it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free."

Related Links

« Back to Glossary

Browse DUI Terms Alphabetically:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W | Z | ALL