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What Does “Beyond A Reasonable Doubt” Mean?

When there is a jury for a criminal trial, they have to be given very specific instructions. One particularly important bit of advice that they are given is that they should not vote to convict someone unless their guilt has been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But what does that actually mean? And how can a defense attorney use this threshold to their advantage? An Orangetown, NY criminal defense attorney can tell you more.

Is There a Difference Between Reasonable Doubt and Absolute Doubt?

One thing that you might wonder is why the term “reasonable doubt” gets used. Why not just say doubt? This is because the court wants to make a distinction between reasonable and absolute doubt.

When a case is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it means that any reasonable person can look at the situation and think that the most likely explanation here is that the defendant committed the crime. A juror can make a careful and impartial consideration of the evidence they have been presented with and can be convinced that the defendant should be convicted.

Holding a prosecutor to the standard of proving a case beyond an absolute doubt would be different. There are few things that can be known with absolute certainty. It is the prosecution’s job to present a case that could make impartial jurors reasonably think that the defendant is guilty. It is a defense attorney’s job to contest that evidence and show how the prosecution has not done enough to build a convincing case.

How Can a Defense Lawyer Help You Create Reasonable Doubt?

What a good defense attorney does is poke holes in a prosecution’s case, showing the jury that it is not nearly as airtight as it might look at first glance. This can be done in a few ways. Your lawyer could:

  • Present evidence that contradicts the prosecution’s evidence
  • Challenge the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses
  • Present alternative theories of what happened
  • Introduce other possible suspects

Now jurors can look at both sides and reasonably evaluate the evidence. If they can reasonably believe that the defendant may not have committed the crimes they are accused of, they would have to acquit.

Should I Hire a Defense Attorney or Stick with a Public Defender?

If you have been assigned a public defender, you may be wondering whether you should stick with them or hire an attorney of your own choosing. There are pros and cons to each option. Sometimes public defenders are overburdened and unable to focus on an individual case so closely. A defense attorney who will give you more personal attention could be a better option.

Schedule Your Consultation

If you want to learn more about how our experienced defense attorneys can help you, contact the Law Office of Kevin T. Conway. You can schedule a consultation with our team and tell us more about your legal situation. We would love to be of assistance.

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