Primary Standards of Proof

Atty. Noel Atienza
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The four primary standards of proof are proof beyond a reasonable doubt, preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence and substantial evidence.

PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt. There are very few things in this world that we know with absolute certainty, and in criminal cases the law does not require proof that overcomes every possible doubt.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is a legal standard of proof required to validate a criminal conviction in most adversarial legal systems.[1] It is a higher standard of proof than the balance of probabilities (commonly used in civil matters) and is usually therefore reserved for criminal matters where what is at stake (e.g. someone’s liberty) is considered more serious and therefore deserving of a higher threshold.

The prosecution in criminal matters typically bears the burden of proof and is required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that in order for a defendant to be found guilty the case presented by the prosecution must be enough to remove any reasonable doubt in the mind of the jury that the defendant is guilty of the crime with which they are charged. The term “reasonable doubt” can be criticized for having a circular definition. Therefore, jurisdictions reliant on this standard of proof often rely on additional or supplemental measures, such as specific jury directions, which simplify or qualify what is meant by a “reasonable doubt” (see below for examples). The principle for the requirement that a criminal case to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt (as opposed to on the balance of probabilities) can be traced to Blackstone’s formulation that “[i]t is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”, i.e. if there is any doubt that a person is guilty, it is better that they be acquitted than to risk an innocent person being convicted.

The standard that must be met by the prosecution’s evidence in a criminal prosecution: that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime, thereby overcoming the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty in criminal cases, the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt is on the prosecution, and they must establish that fact beyond a reasonable doubt.

PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE

The lowest standard of proof is known as the ‘preponderance of evidence. In other words, if a claim can be demonstrated to be more likely to be true than not true, the burden of proof is met. The preponderance of evidence standard applies primarily to civil law cases.

Preponderance of the evidence means the greater weight of the evidence required in a civil (non-criminal) lawsuit for the trier of fact (jury or judge without a jury) to decide in favor of one side or the other. This preponderance is based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence. Thus, one clearly knowledgeable witness may provide a preponderance of evidence over a dozen witnesses with hazy testimony, or a signed agreement with definite terms may outweigh opinions or speculation about what the parties intended. Preponderance of the evidence is required in a civil case and is contrasted with “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the more severe test of evidence required to convict in a criminal trial. No matter what the definition stated in various legal opinions, the meaning is somewhat subjective.

 In civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proving his case by a preponderance of the evidence.

CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE

Clear and convincing proof means that the evidence presented by a party during the trial must be highly and substantially more probable to be true than not and the trier of fact must have a firm belief or conviction in its factuality.

Clear and convincing evidence is a higher level of burden of persuasion than “preponderance of the evidence.” In this standard, a greater degree of believability must be met than the common standard of proof in civil actions, which only requires that the facts as a threshold be more likely than not to prove the issue for which they are asserted.

The standard of proof required in granting or denying bail in extradition cases is “clear and convincing evidence” that the potential extraditee is not a flight risk and will abide with all the orders and process of the extradition court.

It must be added that the defenses of denial and improper motive can only prosper when substantiated by clear and convincing evidence.

This level of proof (clear and convincing evidence) is used for overturning disputable presumptions, such as the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties (G.R. No. 194499) or the existence of a valuable consideration.

SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

Substantial evidence rule is a principle that a reviewing court should uphold an administrative body’s ruling if it is supported by evidence on which the administrative body could reasonably base its decision

In administrative proceedings, the quantum of proof necessary for a finding of guilt is substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind may accept as adequate to support a conclusion.

Complainants in administrative proceedings carry the burden of proving their allegations with substantial evidence or such “relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.

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