Standards of burden of proof

| Jun 23, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Defense |

Probably the most significant difference in the outcome of South Carolina legal matters is how civil cases and criminal cases finally arrive at a verdict. That controlling legal principle is the standard for the burden of proof. There are effectively two levels of proof used in any court case, and both require establishing case facts in proving the claim. Factual evidence is then evaluated as being either material or immaterial to the case. While material facts are most important, immaterial facts are often introduced in support of material elements of proof to strengthen the case.

Preponderance of the evidence

All civil cases are adjudicated using the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. The preponderance standard also typically includes a totality of the circumstances, but final rulings can still hinge on a single piece of evidence when it is compelling and central to the case. Evidence must meet the rules of submission according to the court, and each article can have a varying impact on the final ruling. Just as in a criminal defense strategy, the most compelling evidence in a civil case is also considered “clear and convincing” when these factual elements control the ultimate court decision.

Beyond a reasonable doubt

Criminal cases are decided by the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, which is the strongest burden of proof in the legal system. While some evidence submitted can be supportive or immaterial to the case, material evidence must meet the clear and convincing level in lowering presumed innocence. South Carolina criminal defense lawyers always focus on building as much reasonable doubt as possible in questioning the evidence that does not necessarily meet the clear and convincing level of scrutiny. The reasonable doubt standard is actually the most commonly understood burden of proof for novice parties to any court case due to its use in criminal case reporting and in television productions.

The contrast in burdens of proof is also how some criminal cases associated with a civil lawsuit are adjudicated with differing final results. Based on the strength of presented material evidence, a defendant can still be found liable in a civil case but not be convicted of a crime because the evidence does not meet the reasonable doubt proof standard.