Criminal Law: What Does “Reasonable Doubt” Actually Mean?
Were you arrested and charged with a crime in Florida? You have the right to defend yourself. A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. Every person charged with a crime in Florida is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Beyond that, it is the prosecution that has the duty to prove the defendant’s guilt.
Criminal cases in the United States fall under the “reasonable doubt” standard. You may be wondering: What does reasonable doubt actually mean? In this article, our Orlando criminal defense lawyer answers the question by explaining the most important things you should know about how reasonable doubt is defined in a criminal case in Florida.
The Definition: Reasonable Doubt
Reasonable doubt is one of the core principles in the American criminal justice system. Unlike in civil cases—where a preponderance of evidence is sufficient to prove liability—guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is required for a criminal conviction in Florida and other U.S. jurisdictions. It is a concept that is founded in the presumption of innocence. Every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Broadly speaking, reasonable doubt is the level of certainty that a juror must have before they can find a defendant guilty of a crime. The United States Courts provides the following definition of “reasonable doubt”: “doubt based upon reason and common sense and is not based purely on speculation.” That being said, it is important to note that reasonable doubt does not mean absolute certainty.
Reasonable Doubt is a High Bar for the Prosecution to Meet
The reasonable doubt standard places a heavy burden on the prosecution. It requires them to provide sufficient evidence to convince the jury of the defendant’s guilt beyond purely speculation. Proving that a defendant “more likely than not” committed a crime is not necessarily enough to meet the reasonable doubt standard of proof. As reasonable doubt is a subjective standard, jurors must carefully evaluate the evidence presented during the trial and use their own judgment to determine whether the prosecution has met this burden. Factors that can contribute to reasonable doubt include:
- Inconsistencies in witness testimony;
- A lack of physical evidence;
- An alibi from the defendant; or
- Other weaknesses in the evidence.
A Criminal Defense Strategy Should Be Crafted Based On the Evidence
Every criminal charge is different. It is crucial that you put together a defense strategy that is narrowly tailored to your specific circumstances. A top Orlando, FL criminal defense attorney can review your case, assess the evidence in light of the reasonable doubt standard, and build a strategy to help you fight for the best outcome.
Get Help From Our Central Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
At The Baez Law Firm, our Orlando criminal defense attorney is a passionate, experienced, and effective advocate for clients. If you have any questions about your case or the reasonable doubt standard, we are more than ready to help. Call us now or contact us through our website for a confidential review and evaluation of your criminal case. We provide full-service criminal defense representation in Orlando, Orange County, and all across Central Florida.