Reasonable Doubt

In every criminal case, the burden is always on the prosecution to prove its case by 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt'.  The defendant, never has any burden to present any evidence whatsoever, and he/she is not obligated to testify at trial.

Far too many people, unfortunately, mistakenly believe that a criminal defendant has some obligation to offer evidence in his defense, particularly if he is innocent.  For that reason, when the presentation of evidence is concluded and before the jury is sent out to deliberate, the Judge instructs them on the definition of 'reasonable doubt' and reminds them that a criminal defendant has no burden whatsoever:

The burden is on the Commonwealth to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charge(s) made against him.

Then what is reasonable doubt?  The terms is often used and probably well understood, though it is not easily defined.  Proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond all possible doubt, for everything in the lives of human beings is open to some possible or imaginary doubt.  A charge is proven beyond a reasonable doubt if, after you have compared and considered all of the evidence, you have in your minds an abiding conviction, to a moral certainty, that the charge is true.

Every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the burden of proof is on the Commonwealth.  If you evaluate all the evidence and you still have a reasonable doubt remaining, the defendant is entitled to the benefit of that doubt and must be acquitted.

It is not enough for the Commonwealth to establish a probability, even a strong probability, that the defendant is more likely to be guilty than not guilty.  That is not enough.  Instead, the evidence must convince you of the defendant's guilt to a reasonable and moral certainty; a certainty that convinces your understanding and satisfies your reason and judgment as jurors who are sworn to act conscientiously on the evidence.

That is what we mean by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis has extensive trial experience and has been successful on behalf of his clients at both the District and Superior Court levels.

To schedule a Free Consultation and to discuss your criminal case with Attorney Lefteris K. Travayiakis, Contact Us Online or call 617-325-9500.