Burden of Proof

Most of us understand that in regards to criminal cases, there are standards of proof. Chances are, many of us also know that defendants are “presumed innocent” until proven guilty. The process of providing proof falls on the prosecution in this case. This is called the Burden of Proof. In other matters such as civil cases, the burden of proof rests on the claimant. As with most legal matters, burden of proof contains some subtleties that often make it difficult to classify.

Suppose that a defendant is charged with a crime involving bodily harm. If the defendant claims that he was acting in self-defense, he will have the burden of showing the court that there is evidence supporting his self-defense claim. This is sometimes referred to as evidential burden of proof.  On the other hand, the prosecution in this particular matter would need to disprove every defense that is brought to the court’s attention by the defendant.

At times, the burden of proof is shifted. For instance, when a defendant claims insanity as his defense, he must prove that he is insane in order to be acquitted of the crime. Here, the burden of proof is clearly shifted to the defendant.

Even so, the law is riddled with presumptions and knowing when those stand can be arduous, depending on the circumstances. In civil cases, for example, facts can be nearly impossible to prove. Consider a married couple that dies at the same time. If the main beneficiary’s interest in their estate depends on who died first, there may not be sufficient evidence to prove such. As it stands, the law imposes the presumption that the eldest died first.

Issues relating to burden of proof are—at best—complex. An attorney who regularly handles criminal and civil litigation is vital to the outcome of your case.

At Shepard, Plunkett, & Hamilton, LLP, our lawyers provide focused attention to your case, and are dedicated to obtaining the best possible resolution. Do not let the burden of understanding the law fall on you. We’re here to help. 

Posted on behalf of Shepard, Plunkett & Hamilton, LLP

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