"Beyond reasonable doubt" is likely a term that you have heard
before, but what does it mean? This principle is often used in jury trials
as the principle by which defendants are convicted or dismissed of their
charges. In general, beyond reasonable doubt means that someone can only
be convicted if the prosecution proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that
the defendant committed the alleged offenses. If the jury still doubts
after the closing arguments, then they should not vote guilty, according
to this principle. Interestingly enough, there is no concrete definition
for "reasonable doubt."
A few landmark court cases throughout U.S. history have attempted to define
what reasonable doubt is and subsequently what role it should place in
the conviction or dismissal of a defendant's charges. In
Victor v. Nebraska 1994, Justice O'Connor stated "Although this standard [reasonable doubt]
is an ancient and honored aspect of our criminal justice system, it defies
easy explication. In these cases, we consider the constitutionality of
two attempts to define 'reasonable doubt.'"
According to the Constitution, a court can attempt to define reasonable
doubt on its own for the sake of the trial, but the Constitution also
does not require courts to define the principle either. All that is required
is for the court to notify the jury that proving a defendant's guilt
beyond a reasonable doubt is necessary to warrant a conviction.
Some court cases have attempted to define this principle as a lack of moral
certainty. This, however, was deemed unconstitutional. Evidentiary certainty,
rather than moral certainty, should be the basis of every juror's
"guilty" vote, rather than a moral assuredness.
Why does this principle matter? In countless cases, it has been successful
in preventing unnecessary convictions. If you have been accused of a crime
but there is not enough proof to convict you, then your charges will likely
be dismissed. To learn more about reasonable doubt and other pertinent
contact an Orange County criminal defense lawyer from the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. today.