Who Carries the Burden of Proof?Burden of Proof

In a civil lawsuit, the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff and in a criminal case, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. 

Burden of proof is the obligation of a party in a trial to produce evidence that proves that the claims they have made against the other party are true. In most legal disputes, including civil claims and criminal cases, one party is initially and automatically presumed to be correct and gets the benefit of the doubt. The other party has the burden, or responsibility, of proving the other party to not be correct and/or guilty as charged. Once the party that has the burden of proof has met its burden, the burden of proof is then put on the other side. In different phases and kinds of litigation, the burdens may be of different kinds for the different parties involved. 

Burden of Proof in a Civil Lawsuit

In a civil lawsuit, the burden of proof is placed on the person or party that filed the lawsuit. The person who files the lawsuit is the plaintiff. While both sides get to present their side of the case, the burden of proof is not on the defendant and their lawyer to prove their innocence, it is on the plaintiff to prove the plaintiff’s guilt. They must do this by proving that the things they are alleging the defendant did are true and as a result of this, the defendant caused damage, injury or harm to the plaintiff and/or their property. 

The standard to which a plaintiff in a civil case has to prove the defendant’s guilt is different than what the prosecution has to do in a criminal case. In the more common kinds of civil cases, the plaintiff only needs to prove the defendant’s guilt by a preponderance of evidence. This means that they have to prove that the defendant’s actions (or inactions) most likely caused the plaintiff’s damages. In civil cases that are considered to be more serious, the burden of proof must be clear and convincing evidence. This means that the evidence presented against the defendant, must be highly and substantially more probable to be true than not.

Burden of Proof in a Criminal Case

In a criminal case in the United States, a person who is charged with a crime is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that even though someone charged with a crime may need to remain in jail until their trial, they are innocent in the eyes of the court until the prosecution proves that they are guilty. In criminal cases, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution where they need to prove the defendant’s guilt but the defendant does not have to prove their innocence. 

The standard of which the burden of proof must be met is much higher in criminal cases than it is in most civil lawsuits. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime that they are being accused of. 

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