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"Beyond Reasonable Doubt" and Why It Matters in Your Case

"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 court issues, contact an Orange County criminal defense lawyer from the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. today.