What is the Burden of Proof? | Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.
burden of proof

What is the Burden of Proof?

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

When it comes to legal proceedings, there is a legal standard that plays a crucial role in determining the outcome – the burden of proof. This term refers to the responsibility placed on a party to prove their claims or allegations in court. However, this burden can vary depending on whether the case falls under the civil or criminal court system.

Once the burden of proof is placed on a party, it also changes throughout the legal proceedings. It is not the same throughout the legal process, however. The plaintiff or defendant only has to prove so much by certain points in the legal process. If you’re unsure how the burden of proof works and when you have to prove what, the criminal defense and personal injury attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. can explain.

What is the Burden of Proof?

At its core, the burden of proof refers to the obligation of a party (the plaintiff or defendant) to provide enough evidence and convince the judge or jury that their version of events is more likely than not. This does not mean that the other party doesn’t get the chance to respond. The other party is typically arguing from the position of disproving the opposing party, rather than proving their belief.

In other words, they must prove that there is a better chance that their claims are true. How likely they need to be depends on the type of case. This concept is essential in ensuring that the outcome of a case is based on evidence rather than speculation or assumptions.

Types of Burden of Proof

There are several types of burden of proof in Pennsylvania, which typically vary based on the legal context. Here are some of the most common:

  1. Preponderance of the Evidence: This standard is used in most civil cases. The plaintiff must convince the judge or jury that their version of the facts is more likely than not the correct version of events. In other words, it’s more than 50% likely that things happened the way the plaintiff claims. This can’t be used in criminal defense cases, but because civil cases are over monetary compensation, you can use a lower threshold for a burden of proof.
  2. Clear and Convincing Evidence: This is a higher standard than preponderance of the evidence. It requires that the plaintiff’s version of events be highly and substantially more likely to be true. It is used in civil cases where something more than money is at stake. This includes cases involving allegations of fraud, child custody, and probate cases.
  3. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: This is the highest standard of proof and is used in criminal cases. While it may be different in other states, the definition in Pennsylvania has remained largely consistent. The prosecution must convince the judge or jury that there is no reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. This does not mean that there is no doubt, but rather that any doubts that do exist are not reasonable. This has to be used in criminal cases because of the consequences of sending someone to prison.
  4. Probable Cause: This standard is used in the pre-trial stages of a criminal case. Law enforcement officials must have probable cause before they can arrest or search someone. This means that they must have a reasonable basis to believe a crime has been committed.
  5. Prima Facie: Similar to probable cause but for civil cases, this denotes that the party has provided enough evidence to support their claim, and the trial may proceed.

Civil Court Cases

In civil court cases, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff. The plaintiff would be the party bringing forth the lawsuit. The standard of proof required for a plaintiff in civil cases to fulfill their burden is first the prima facie, and then the “preponderance of evidence.” In medical malpractice and personal injury cases, we must meet these burdens of proof for our clients for trials to proceed.

This means that they must present enough evidence to show that it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the harm or injury suffered by the plaintiff.

Criminal Court Cases

Criminal court cases have a much higher burden of proof. The prosecution carries the burden of proving their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that they must provide evidence that leaves no reasonable doubt in the minds of the judge or jury that the defendant committed the crime. This standard is significantly higher than that of civil cases and reflects the severity of punishment in criminal cases.

When we have to defend our clients, we have to argue against points that the prosecution makes. We can also attempt to prove that there is reasonable doubt that our client is guilty.

Contact the Criminal Defense or Personal Injury Attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.

Understanding the burden of proof and its differences between civil and criminal cases is crucial when navigating the legal system. Make sure you have an attorney who understands the differences and specifics of each type of burden of proof such as those at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.

We can effectively fight for the freedom of clients who are facing criminal defense charges and get compensation for someone who has suffered a personal injury due to someone’s negligence. To meet with our criminal defense or personal injury attorneys, contact us today.