What is Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (RBD)?

December 15, 2020

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt (RBD) is the standard for convictions in a criminal trial. A court cannot find a person guilty unless the evidence satisfies this standard. But what exactly constitutes beyond a reasonable doubt?

Reasonable Doubt Definition

Reasonable doubt occurs where the guilt of a person cannot be said with certainty. Where the evidence, or the lack of evidence, fails to clearly demonstrate the guilt of an individual reasonable doubt may exist.

Personal opinions or feelings are insufficient for reasonable doubt. To satisfy RBD the justification must be more concrete. Based on reason and common sense that logically connects to the evidence.

Evidence that appears to show the defendant was elsewhere at the time of the criminal activity, for instance, may create reasonable doubt. 

How Beyond Reasonable Doubt Works 

In a criminal trial, every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This puts the onus on the Crown to demonstrate that the available evidence supports the idea that guilt is the most probable answer. In demonstrating this, they show that the defendant is guilty 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. Beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean without any doubt. Instead, it is more of a balance of probabilities. The question that the Court must determine is, does reason and the supporting evidence suggest that guilt is more likely than not.


While available evidence does need to satisfy beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction, not all of the evidence must meet this requirement. The Judge looks at the case as a whole, not as singular pieces of evidence. 

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 have evidence challenged or dismissed to best protect your rights and freedoms. Whether challenging evidence that does not satisfy a reasonable doubt or applying for dismissal of illegally gathered evidence, your defence lawyer may be the difference in whether or not you are convicted.

Toronto Criminal Lawyer

Are you or a loved one facing criminal charges? A criminal lawyer is the best way to protect your interests. 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.

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