You likely know that, if facing criminal charges, the judge and jury cannot convict you unless the prosecutor proves your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But what does this term mean?
BurdenOfProof.org explains that the prosecution’s evidence must establish not only that you committed the crime, but also that you committed it either intentionally or with a high degree of negligence that failed to take your victim’s life and safety into account. Furthermore, the evidence must be so compelling that neither the judge, the jury nor any reasonable person could question your guilt. In other words, the judge and jury cannot simply believe that you likely or probably committed the crime. On the other hand, the prosecution’s evidence need not remove every trace of doubt from their minds.
Burden of proof
The burden of proof rests squarely on the prosecution in any criminal case. What you may not realize is that technically you and your attorney are under no obligation whatsoever to prove your innocence. Nor do you have any obligation to take the witness stand in your own defense. In fact, the prosecution cannot call you as a witness. If you decide to testify on your own behalf, however, the prosecutor can cross-examine you.
Obviously, the more credible evidence you and your attorney can accumulate that casts reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case against you, the more likely the judge and jury will find that the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof and therefore acquit you.
Once acquitted, the double jeopardy provision of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents the state from ever again attempting to prosecute you for the same crime.