What Does Reasonable Doubt Mean in Criminal Law? | Scartelli
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What Does Reasonable Doubt Mean in Criminal Law?

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.
Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

Reasonable doubt is a term commonly used in criminal law and criminal court cases. When a judge asks for the verdict, they are asking if the jury finds the defendant guilty beyond all reasonable doubt or not.

In the United States, our judicial system is supposed to consider every defendant innocent until proven guilty. While there is evidence that this is not the case, this is the foundation of our judicial system. Now, for someone to be declared guilty, all 12 jurors must come to an agreement that the defendant is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.

To learn more about reasonable doubt and your future criminal court case, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. for more information.

What is Reasonable Doubt?

As defined by the United States courts, reasonable doubt is defined as “proof that leaves you firmly convinced the defendant is guilty.” Additionally, it is specified that “it is not required that the government prove guilt beyond all possible doubt.”

In other words, reasonable doubt must be based on facts and evidence—not simply guesswork or speculation. For a person to be convicted beyond all reasonable doubt, all twelve jurors must have no doubts about whether or not the defendant committed the alleged crime. If there are even small uncertainties or questions among any of the jurors, then they should not declare the defendant guilty, leading to an acquittal.

What is an Acquittal?

An acquittal is a legal determination that a defendant is not guilty of the crime they are accused of committing. An acquittal occurs when a jury or judge finds that the prosecution has not offered sufficient evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is also considered an acquittal when the prosecution decides to drop all charges against a defendant. When an individual is acquitted of a crime, it means that they are no longer subject to investigation, and there will be no record of the individual having committed a violation.

Why Does Someone Have to Be Guilty Beyond Reasonable Doubt?

The standard of proof for being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is critical to the criminal justice system. This helps to ensure that innocent people are not wrongfully convicted. This system places the burden of proof on the prosecution, rather than the defendant.

By requiring prosecutors to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, jurors are then forced to look closely at all facts and evidence presented before making a decision.

Additionally, this standard helps stop those who may be wrongly accused from being convicted due to bias or prejudice, though this is not always the case. Thus, someone must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for there to be a fair and just outcome in any criminal case.

The Problem of Wrongful Convictions

According to estimates, 4% to 6% of the people incarcerated in the United States were wrongfully convicted. With a prison population of 1.9 million, that would be anywhere from 76,000 to 114,000 people.

The same study also found that African-Americans are significantly more likely to be wrongfully convicted than any other racial group. Currently, African-Americans make up 13% of the country’s population, 40% of the prison population, and almost 60% of DNA exonerations. DNA exonerations are when someone is cleared of a crime based on post-conviction DNA testing.

What Should You Do If You Face a Criminal Charge?

Do not take any criminal charge lightly. Many of them come with the threat of prison and/or fines that if unpaid, could see you go to prison. No one deserves to be unjustly convicted, and our system based on reasonable doubt helps prevent that, but it is not always successful.

To fight for your freedom and innocence, you need a criminal defense attorney at your side to help you. Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. as soon as possible for a consultation.