Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (BRD) is the standard for convictions in a criminal trial. A court cannot find that the defendant is guilty of a crime unless the evidence satisfies this standard of proof. But what exactly constitutes Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?
Reasonable Doubt Definition
Reasonable doubt occurs where the guilt of the accused falls short of absolute certainty. Where the preponderance of the evidence, or the lack of evidence presented, fails to clearly demonstrate the guilt of an individual reasonable doubt may exist.
Personal opinions or feelings are insufficient for reasonable doubt. To satisfy BRD the judge, or the judge and jury, must be more than sure, they must be closer to absolute certainty. There must be a very high probability of the defendant’s guilt. Based on reason and common sense that logically connects to the clear and convincing evidence. The Supreme Court of Canada said that reasonable doubt falls much closer to absolute certainty than to proof on a balance of probabilities.
The criminal law burden of proof that the prosecution must meet to satisfy beyond a reasonable doubt is much higher than the civil court standards of proof which is on the balance of probabilities. The balance of probabilities is not the highest standard of proof.
Alibi evidence that appears to show the defendant was elsewhere at the time of the criminal activity, for instance, may create reasonable doubt.
The Scale of Justice ensure that the standard of proof of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
How Beyond Reasonable Doubt Works
In a criminal trial, every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In a criminal case this puts the onus on the Crown to prove its case that the preponderance of the evidence supports the idea that guilt is the answer. In demonstrating this, they must prove that the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the Crown cannot satisfy beyond a reasonable doubt, there is no conviction.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, however, does not require absolute certainty, but it does mean more than probably guilty. Beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean without any doubt. The question that the Court must determine is, does reason and the supporting evidence suggest that guilt is more likely than not.
The evidence in a criminal trial needs to be considered as a whole. The evidence on a whole needs to meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Individual pieces of available evidence do not need to meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The Judge looks at the case as a whole, not as singular pieces of evidence. However, one piece of clear and convincing evidence may be enough to create reasonable doubt.
Just because one piece of evidence cannot be verified beyond a reasonable doubt does not dismiss other evidence. Not satisfying this requirement may not result in that piece of evidence being dismissed. Witness testimony, for example, is notoriously unreliable. Studies have proven that it’s extremely difficult for an eyewitness to accurately ID a person. As well as demonstrating that their memory is easily distorted or influenced. As such, it’s hard to consider unverified eyewitness testimony as providing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet, it continues to play an important role in criminal trials.
A criminal lawyer is the best chance to ensure that the presumption of innocence is never lost and to have evidence challenged or dismissed. Whether challenging evidence that does not satisfy a BRD or applying for dismissal of illegally gathered evidence, your defence lawyer may be the difference in whether or not you are convicted.
If there is a question of guilty then that is a reasonable doubt.
Toronto Criminal Lawyer
Are you or a loved one facing criminal charges? Is there a risk that the presumption of innocence will be lost? A criminal lawyer is the best way to ensure that the evidence against you does not add up to the standard of proof BRD. William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer with expertise in challenging evidence. He will help you understand your charges, your options, and their potential outcomes.
Contact William Jaksa today for your consultation.