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The burden of proof is a legal standard that requires parties to provide evidence to demonstrate that a claim is valid. The onus for the burden of proof lies with the party initiating or filing a claim. Standards are used in both civil and criminal trials and cases involving insurance claims or lawsuits involving financial malfeasance.

The burden of proof requirement is designed to ensure that legal decisions are made based on facts rather than conjecture. There are three levels of the burden of proof that determine the amount of evidence required for a claim to be successful. They are:

  • Preponderance of the evidence
  • This is the burden of proof required in most civil cases. The plaintiff must prove to the judge or jury that the defendant is more likely than not liable for some harm the plaintiff has suffered.

  • Clear and convincing
  • When a party has the burden of proving any claim or defense by clear and convincing evidence, they must present evidence that leaves you with a firm belief or conviction that it is highly probable that the factual contentions of the claim or defense are true. Under this standard, the evidence must be substantially greater than a 50 percent likelihood of being true.

  • Beyond a reasonable doubt

    This burden of proof establishes that no other reasonable explanation exists other than the evidence presented to the court. Used exclusively in criminal cases for the prosecution to prove to the jury the defendant is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. Compared to the other two, beyond a reasonable doubt has a much higher standard since the prosecutor must eliminate any reasonable doubts to prove guilt. In other words, the jury must be virtually certain of the defendant’s guilt in order to render a guilty verdict.

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