What Is a Burden of Proof?

What Is a Burden of Proof?

There are more than 100 million civil and criminal cases filed every year. And while a vast majority never go to court, approximately 400,000 do.

During these trials, evidence is essential–it’s how someone retains innocence or is proven guilty. But who is responsible for evidence?


The burden of proof often lies with the plaintiff, but depending on the situation, the defendant may also have to provide evidence.


Defining the Burden of Proof

In short, the burden of proof is evidence. However, depending on the case, there are different amounts of the required evidence. Nonetheless, all burdens of proof have two things in common: burden of production and burden of persuasion.


The Burden of Production

The part of the proof is the manifestation of evidence. The plaintiff must present sufficient amounts of evidence for the case against the defendant.

There is no case without some evidence to support the plaintiff’s claim. The defendant must explain why the evidence does not prove their guilt.


The Burden of Persuasion

In the United States, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

Therefore, when the plaintiff presents evidence, they must also persuade the judge and jury that the evidence is sufficient to support their claim against the defendant.

This persuasive step is crucial in proving guilt as it’s the only way to indict someone of a crime or misdemeanor.

Additionally, the defendant must explain how the evidence doesn’t indict them and how they are innocent of the claim.


Standards of Proof in the United States

When the plaintiff presents their evidence and attempts to persuade the judge and jury, there are multiple standards they must meet depending on their case and the court’s level.

There are three primary standards for most cases: preponderance of evidence, clear and convincing evidence, and beyond a reasonable doubt.


#1: Preponderance of Evidence

Most often used in family court, “preponderance of evidence” is when the plaintiff presents substantial evidence to prove that their argument is more accurate than the defendant.

“Preponderance of evidence” produces enough evidence to show another person is responsible for damages.


#2: Clear and Convincing Evidence

This next standard requires that all the evidence presented in a trial is highly and sustainably valid. “Clear and convincing evidence” is necessary for greater believability in civil cases.


#3: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The most well-known standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This standard is used strictly in criminal cases because it requires the production of proof and persuasion to be so great that there is no room for doubt in the jury’s collective mind.

This standard is challenging because it puts the legal burden on the plaintiff to provide credible evidence and explanation to show that the defendant committed a crime.


How Can We Help You?

Whether you are involved in a civil case or criminal trial, you must have a team ready to fight by your side. The burden of proof rests on you as the plaintiff. When emotionally invested in a case, it’s hard to find sufficient evidence on your own.

The attorneys at Hickey and Hull Law Partners are ready to help you build a case to prove your claim or defense. Contact us today for a free case review.