Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

A high standard of proof used to prove guilt in criminal law cases.  To obtain conviction, the prosecution must prove each element of the charged crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

California Criminal Jury Instruction No. 103. Reasonable Doubt:

“I will now explain the presumption of innocence and the People’s burden of proof.  The defendant has pleaded not guilty to the charges.  The fact that a criminal charge has been filed against the defendant is not evidence that the charge is true.  You must not be biased against the defendant just because he has been arrested, charged with a crime, or brought to trial.

“A defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent.  This presumption requires that the People prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Whenever I tell you the People must prove something, I mean they must prove it beyond a reasonable doubt unless I specifically tell you otherwise.

“Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you with an abiding conviction that the charge is true.  The evidence need not eliminate all possible doubt because everything in life is open to some possible or imaginary doubt.

“In deciding whether the People have proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, you must impartially compare and consider all evidence that was received throughout the entire trial.  Unless evidence proves the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he is entitled to an acquittal and you must find him not guilty.”

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