Reasonable doubt

Reasonable doubt is a term used in jurisdiction of common law countries. Evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt is the standard of evidence required to validate a criminal conviction in most adversarial legal systems. Generally, prosecutors bear the burden of proof and are required to prove their version of events to this standard. This means that the proposition being presented by the prosecution must be proven to the extent that there could be no "reasonable doubt" in the mind of a "reasonable person" that the defendant is guilty. There can still be a doubt, but only to the extent that it would not affect a reasonable person's belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty. Beyond "the shadow of a doubt" is sometimes used interchangeably with beyond reasonable doubt, but this extends beyond the latter, to the extent that it may be considered a next to impossible standard (though at times at a trial the person is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, usually in such situations a plea bargain takes place to give the guilty some leniency in exchange for the time and money a trial would cost both sides). The term "reasonable doubt" is therefore used. If doubt does affect a "reasonable person's" belief that the defendant is guilty, the jury is not satisfied beyond "reasonable doubt". The precise meaning of words such as "reasonable" and "doubt" are usually defined within jurisprudence of the applicable country. A related idea is Blackstone's formulation "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer". Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof in any court in the United States. Criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.


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