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If you’re used to watching legal programs such as Suits and How to Get Away with Murder, then you have undoubtedly seen a lawyer stand in front of a courtroom and say something like ‘I will show this court, beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime’. Now, this is all fancy legal terms but what exactly does “beyond reasonable” doubt actually mean? It is a standard of proof in Criminal cases, we’ll explain shortly.
In the law of evidence, there are two rules followed when a party wants to establish a case for or against another party, there rules are summed up as the burden of proof and the standard of proof. In law, the person who brings the case, is expected to prove, and convince Court of his or her argument in order to win. The person who needs to prove is said to have the “burden of proof” while the degree of proving their case is referred to as the “standard of proof”. Different types of cases have got different standards which they must prove in order win.
a) Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases:
In criminal cases, eg. Murder or Rape, the burden of proof normally lies on the Prosecution (the State). This is because our constitution provides that a person is innocent until proven guilty. So the prosecution has to prove to court that the accused is guilty, or else the accused will remain, by default, innocent. This rule has exceptions, eg if the accused bring a defence that they were drunk (intoxicated) when they committed the offence, then the burden of proof shifts to the accused so he has to prove that he/she was really drunk at that time.
b) Burden of Proof in Civil Cases:
In civil cases e.g, breach of contract, the burden of proof lies on the person who makes the allegation eg if Paul brings a case against Luke for breaching their contract, the burden of proof is on Paul to prove to court that indeed Luke actually breached their contract.
a) Level of Proof for Criminal Cases:
In Criminal cases the level of proof is “Beyond Reasonable Doubt”, this basically means from the evidence given, any lay person can see that indeed the accused has committed the crime. In case the evidence is not beyond reasonable doubt, then the person is set free.
b) Level of Proof for Civil Cases:
In Civil cases, the standard is on a “Balance of Probabilities”, this basically means that, from the evidence given, the side that is able to prove that their side of the case is more probable to have happened will win.