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What is The Burden of Proof and How is it Relevant in Florida Cases?

The burden of proof is the amount and quality of evidence required to prove your case in a court. Different types of issues require varying levels of evidence, and for a person to win a court case, they must be able to meet their burden of proof.

What is The Burden of Proof?

The burden of proof is a legal standard for how a case must be proven. The person bringing the cause of action, usually the plaintiff in civil cases, has the duty to provide evidence to prove their version of events. Generally, the defendant does not have the duty to prove anything, they can choose not to provide any evidence whatsoever. It is the plaintiff’s duty to prove the case. Still, in most cases, the defendants op to provide some evidence to defuse the case brought against them.

The actual burden the plaintiffs are required to meet for each legal issue changes depending on what they are suing for and the court they are in. The higher the burden the harder it is for the plaintiffs to prove their case. That is, the higher the burden of proof, the more convincing the plaintiffs must be to win their case.

Type of Burdens That Appear in Cases

Preponderance of The Evidence

The most common burden of proof in civil trials, the preponderance of the evidence standard, requires that the plaintiff prove their case at a more likely than not standard. That is, the jury should find for the plaintiff if the evidence shows that the defendant is more likely than not liable.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

This is the standard used in criminal cases. Essentially, this requires that the prosecution prove their case beyond any reasonable doubt, meaning that if the jury does not have a reasonable doubt, they must find the defendant not guilty. This is an extremely high standard, one that is much higher than the preponderance of the evidence standard.

Clear and Convincing Evidence

This is an intermediate level of evidence required that lies between reasonable doubt and preponderance of the evidence. The plaintiff or prosecutor must produce enough evidence to show that their version of events is true without hesitancy. The jury, or judge, can still have reasonable doubts, but there must be more than just a “more than likely” chance that the plaintiff’s story is true.

This standard is generally used for specific legal issues, such as where court documents had been successfully transmitted to the defendant, if such a fact was contested.

Reasonable Suspicion Standard

Sometimes a jury or judge may evaluate whether a police officer acted within his scope of power. One of the standards that must be evaluated is the reasonable suspicion standard. A police officer had the right to briefly stop or investigate someone if a reasonable police officer in their place could believe that a crime was taking place or was about to take place. This is not high enough a standard to arrest someone or find a warrant, however.

Probable Cause Standard

This standard is higher than reasonable suspicion. It generally requires that the police officer had actual knowledge that the crime is about to be or was committed. If this standard of evidence is met, the police officer has the right to arrest the suspect. Courts may review the police officer’s determination of this standard as well.

What is The Burden of Proof in a Civil Lawsuit vs. Criminal Lawsuit?

As already mentioned, the burden of proof required in criminal cases is substantially higher than those required in civil cases. Generally, this is because the risk to the defendant is considered substantially higher in criminal cases than civil cases. In criminal cases, the defendant is at risk of jailing or other punishment. They may lose their freedom or other rights. In civil cases, the defendant is generally only at risk of losing money. Of course, the loss of money is not a small issue, but it is generally considered less of a threat than the loss of liberty.

When Does The Burden of Proof Shift to The Defendant?

As mentioned the plaintiff or prosecution generally has the responsibility to meet the burden of proof. However, in some cases this burden could actually shift to the defendant. The most common situation in which this happens is when the defendant proposes an affirmative defense.

An affirmative defense in a criminal case may include the defense of self defense, for example. In some states, it is the duty of the defense to proof that they acted in self defense. Alternatively, a defendant in a negligence civil case may argue that the plaintiff assumed the risk in the activity they were injured in partaking. In these cases, it is the defendant’s duty to prove their side.

Why Do You Need an Attorney for Your Personal Injury Case in Florida?

Experienced personal injury attorneys know the standards of evidence needed to prove their case. Meeting the burden of evidence is not an exact science, and it takes experience and a deep knowledge of the law to meet the applicable standard. A personal injury attorney will be able to take your case’s evidence, and translate it into a presentation that will allow the fact finder to accept your version of events, based on the standard of evidence needed to prove your case.

Bulluck Law Group has years of experience proving personal injury cases for clients that need justice. Contact us for a free consultation today.

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