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Encyclopedia > Balance of probabilities

Burden of proof is the obligation to prove allegations which are presented in a legal action. The standard of proof is the level of proof required in a legal action to convince the court that a given proposition is true. In common law jurisdictions the standard is one of two types, either it is on the balance of probabilities (BOP) or it is beyond a reasonable doubt (BARD). The word proof can mean: originally, a test assessing the validity or quality of something. ... This article is about courts of law. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ...

More colloquially, burden of proof refers to an obligation in a particular context to defend a position against a prima facie other position. Prima facie is a Latin expression meaning at first sight, used in Common law regions to denote a case that is strong enough to justify further discovery and possibly a full trial. ...


Balance of probabilities

Also known as preponderance of the evidence, this is the standard required in most civil cases. The standard is met if the likelihood that the proposition is true is more likely than it not being true. Effectively, the standard is satisfied if there is more than 50% chance that the proposition is true. Lord Denning in Miller v. Minister of Pension described it simply as "more probable than not." Preponderance of the evidence is the level of burden of persuasion typically employed in the civil procedure. ... Civil law has at least three meanings. ... The word probability derives from the Latin probare (to prove, or to test). ... Alfred Thompson Denning, Baron Denning (23 January 1899–6 March 1999) was a British barrister from Hampshire who became Master of the Rolls (the senior civil judge in the Court of Appeal of England and Wales) and was generally well liked, both within the legal profession and outside it. ...

Beyond a reasonable doubt

This is the standard required in most criminal cases. This means that the proposition must be proven to the extent that there is no "reasonable doubt" in the mind of a reasonable person (usually this means the mind of the judge or jury). There can still be a doubt, but only to the extent that it would be "unreasonable" it assume the falsity of the proposition. The precise meaning of words such as "reasonable" and "doubt" are usually defined within jurisprudence of the applicable country. Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of law that regulates governmental sanctions (such as imprisonment and/or fines) as retaliation for crimes against the social order. ... The reasonable man or reasonable person standard is a legal fiction that originated in the development of the common law. ... Jurisprudence (from Latin: juris prudentia — by the activity of prudentes; advisors, experts), is the philosophy, science, study, and application of law. ...

The difference between the criminal and civil standards of proof has raised some interesting cases, most notably of O.J. Simpson. Cleared by the criminal trial of murder, the civil trial later ordered substantial damages against him, in effect concluding that he was guilty of murder. O.J. Simpson at USC. Orenthal James Simpson (born July 9, 1947), known by the initials O.J. (a common American abbreviation for orange juice) and nicknamed The Juice, is a Hall of Fame former college and professional football player and film actor. ... Murder is both a legal and a moral term, that are not always coincident. ... Damages, in law has two different meanings. ...

Legal uses

In jurisprudence, the burden of proof is the concept of holding one party to a dispute or one side of a debate responsible for producing a prima facie case. If this party fails to produce a valid case, the decision will go against them, without requiring any further evidence or discussion. Jurisprudence (from Latin: juris prudentia — by the activity of prudentes; advisors, experts), is the philosophy, science, study, and application of law. ... Evidence is: Any observable event which tends to prove or disprove a proposition, see scientific method and reality. ...

Burden of proof is one of the most important issues in litigation, and in criminal cases it is closely linked with the presumption of innocence - the principle in most modern legal systems that an accused person is "innocent until proven guilty". The Burden of Persuasion in a debate or trial is the requirement that those arguing against the status quo must demonstrate that a problem exists. ... A lawsuit is a civil action brought before a court in order to recover a right, obtain damages for an injury, obtain an injunction to prevent an injury, or obtain a declaratory judgment to prevent future legal disputes. ... Presumption of innocence is an essential right that the accused enjoys in criminal trials in all countries respecting human rights. ...

The burden, therefore, initially lies with the plaintiffs in a case, and not on a defendant who would need to prove that something did not happen. Adequate evidence can, however, shift the burden of proof to the other party. The plaintiff, claimant, or complainant is the party initiating a lawsuit, (also known as an action). ... In Common law, a defendant is any person who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff in a civil suit or any person who has been named in a criminal information or criminal complaint and stands accused of violating a criminal statute. ...

Criminal law

In criminal cases, the burden of proof is often on the prosecutor. The principle that it should be is known as the presumption of innocence, but is not upheld in all legal systems or jurisdictions. Where it is upheld, the accused will be found innocent if a valid case is not presented. Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of law that regulates governmental sanctions (such as imprisonment and/or fines) as retaliation for crimes against the social order. ... In countries adopting the common law adversarial system or the civil law inquisitorial system, the prosecutor is the chief legal representative of the prosecution. ... The term jurisdiction has more than one sense. ...

For example, if the defendant (D) is charged murder, the prosecutor (P) bears the burden of proof to show the jury that D did murder someone.

  • Burden of proof: P
    • Burden of production: P has to show some evidence that D had committed murder
      • e.g. witness, forensic evidence, autopsy report ...
      • Failure to meet the burden: the issue will be decided as a matter of law (the judge makes the decision), in this case, D is presumed innocent
    • Burden of persuasion: if at the close of evidence, the jury cannot decide if P has established with relevant level of certainty that D had committed murder, the jury must find D not a murderer

This page is about witnesses in law courts. ... This article or section should be merged with Forensic science Forensic evidence consists of anything that can be used in a court of law to convict a person of a crime. ... For the former Death Metal band called Autopsy, see Autopsy (band). ... Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest level of burden of persuasion typically employed in the criminal procedure. ... This article is about firearms and similar devices. ... This article is about the projectile, for other uses see bullet (disambiguation). ... In its earliest usage, trigger refers to a mechanical mechanism, the pulling or pushing of which sets a device into action. ... Victim was the title of a British film made in 1961, directed by Basil Deardon and starring Dirk Bogarde and Sylvia Simms. ...


In practice, the question of who has burden of proof usually does not change the outcome of a case, because prosecutors rarely bring cases which are marginal enough so that who has burden of proof makes a difference. In any case, most criminal cases in the United States are resolved via plea bargaining in which burden of proof again does not make a significant difference to the outcome of the case. The United States of America — also referred to as the United States, the U.S.A., the U.S., America¹, the States, or (archaically) Columbia — is a federal republic of 50 states located primarily in central North America (with the exception of two states: Alaska and Hawaii). ... A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case in which a prosecutor and a defendant arrange to settle the case against the defendant. ...

Civil law

In civil law cases, the "burden of proof" requires the plaintiff to convince the trier of fact (whether judge or jury) of the plaintiff's entitlement to the relief sought. This means that the plaintiff must prove each element of the claim, or cause of action, in order to recover. Civil law has at least three meanings. ...

The burden of proof must be distinguished from the "burden of going forward," which simply refers to the sequence of proof, as between the plaintiff and defendant. The two concepts are often confused.

Other uses

Outside a legal context, "burden of proof" means that someone suggesting a new theory or stating a claim must provide evidence to support it: it is not sufficient to say "you can't disprove this".

Taken more generally, the standard of proof demanded to establish any particular conclusion varies with the subject under discussion. Just as there is a difference between the standard required for a criminal conviction and in a civil case, so there are different standards of proof applied in many other areas of life.

The less reasonable a statement seems, the more proof it requires. The scientific consensus on cold fusion, for example. The majority believes this can not really work, because believing that it would do so would force the alteration of a great many other beliefs about thermodynamics. Consensus has two common meanings. ... Charles Bennett examines three cold fusion test cells at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA Cold fusion is technically the name for any nuclear fusion reaction that may occur well below the temperature required for thermonuclear reactions (millions of degrees Celsius). ... Thermodynamics (Greek: thermos = heat and dynamic = change) is the physics of energy, heat, work, entropy and the spontaneity of processes. ...

A classic example comes from Criswell's final speech at the end of Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space: "My friends, you have seen this incident, based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn't happen?". Considering that the incident in question involved grave robbers from space, the burden of proof is being incorrectly assigned. The Amazing Criswell (born Jeron King Criswell on August 18, 1907, died October 4, 1982) was an American psychic who was famous for his wildly inaccurate predictions. ... Edward D. Wood, Jr. ... Plan 9 from Outer Space is a 1957 Ed Wood science fiction horror movie. ...

See also

  Results from FactBites:
Balance - definition from Biology-Online.org (439 words)
Another form is that of the roman balance, our steelyard, consisting of a lever or beam, suspended near one of its extremities, on the longer arm of which a counterpoise slides.
balance electrometer, a kind of balance, with a poised beam, which indicates, by weights suspended from one arm, the mutual attraction of oppositely electrified surfaces.
balance valve, a valve whose surfaces are so arranged that the fluid pressure tending to seat, and that tending to unseat the valve, are nearly in equilibrium; especially, a puppet valve which is made to operate easily by the admission of steam to both sides.
Canada, R. v. Keegstra (3482 words)
If, as in this case, an accused is required to prove some fact on a balance of probabilities to avoid conviction, the impugned provision violates the presumption of innocence because it permits a conviction in spite of a reasonable doubt in the mind of the trier of fact as to the guilt of the accused.
By requiring the accused to prove that his statements are true on a balance of probabilities, Parliament made a concession to the importance of truth in freedom of expression values without excessively compromising the effectiveness of s.
When an accused is required to prove some fact on a balance of probabilities to avoid conviction, the provision violates the presumption of innocence because it permits a conviction in spite of a reasonable doubt in the mind of the trier of fact as to the guilt of the accused.
  More results at FactBites »



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