The Difference Between Standard of Proof and Burden of Proof

If someone has filed charges against you, whether it’s an individual or the state, they have to prove that you actually did what they’re accusing you of. This is referred to as burden of proof. As we mentioned in our last post, the burden of proof is the responsibility of proving one’s claim or charge in a court of law.

A court case succeeds or fails depending on whether or not the burden of proof is satisfied. However, the burden of proof is not always the same for every case. In fact, it can vary dramatically depending on the severity of the claim or charge.

The measurement used for burden of proof is called “standard of proof”.

What is Standard of Proof?

The standard of proof is the extent to which a claim must be justified. The more serious a case is, the higher the standard of proof will be.

For court cases in the US, there are three levels for standard of proof.

The lowest standard is preponderance of evidence. This is primarily used in civil cases. For this standard to be met, the presented evidence must weigh in favor of the party that has the burden of proof (generally the plaintiff/prosecution). Think of it as a balance scale. Evidence is placed on one side or the other. The side that has the most “weight” wins, even if it’s by a very small amount.

The next standard is clear and convincing evidence. Unlike the previous standard, which requires a small amount of likelihood, clear and convincing evidence requires high probability that the allegations are true. This standard is used for civil cases, as well as certain criminal cases. Common cases involving clear and convincing evidence include paternity, child custody, wills and probate, and life support.

Finally, there is beyond reasonable doubt. In this case, there must be overwhelming evidence supporting the claim. This standard is used for serious criminal cases, as well as juvenile delinquency proceedings. Beyond reasonable doubt is specifically designed to favor letting a guilty person go free rather than an innocent person being imprisoned.

Still, that doesn’t mean that absolute certainty needs to be shown. The line between what is considered “reasonable” and what isn’t can be difficult to define.

The Legal System is Complex and Often Confusing

“Burden of proof” and “standard of proof” are just a sample of the endless terminology found in court cases. If you are being accused of something, or you are bringing accusations against someone, it’s critical that you have a lawyer working with you that helps you understand the process so that you can make the most effective case possible.

Michael T. Edwards is an experienced lawyer who will work tirelessly to represent you and your needs. He provides approachable and affordable legal services that simplify the complexities of Ohio law. For a trustworthy attorney in the Springfield, Ohio area, contact the offices of Michael T. Edwards today!

41 E. Main St., Enon,
Springfield, OH 45323