Course: Introduction / Procedural Law
An evidentiary standard is the legally required amount of evidence necessary to achieve a particular criminal justice purpose.
These are also referred to as the degree of certitude.
An evidentiary standard refers to the degree of certitude that the criminal justice system requires to achieve a particular purpose. The standard may be influenced by legal precedent, constitutional protections, and societal values. Common evidentiary standards in criminal proceedings include reasonable suspicion, probable cause, the preponderance of the evidence, and beyond a reasonable doubt.
Reasonable suspicion is a standard used in the initial stages of an investigation, where there are specific and articulable facts that suggest criminal activity may be afoot. It requires a lower level of certainty than probable cause but must be more than a mere hunch or speculation.
Probable cause is a higher standard of proof, requiring a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed and that the person or property to be searched or seized is connected to the crime. This standard is used to justify arrests, searches, and seizures.
The preponderance of the evidence standard is used in civil proceedings and requires that the evidence shows that it is more likely than not that the facts in question are true. This is a lower standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt.
Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof used in criminal trials to secure a conviction. It requires that the prosecution prove each element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, which is defined as a doubt that would cause a reasonable person to hesitate before acting.
These evidentiary standards are critical in ensuring that the criminal justice system operates fairly and effectively. They serve as a safeguard against arbitrary and unjust actions by the government while also providing the necessary flexibility to conduct investigations and prosecute crimes. Law enforcement officers, judges, and attorneys must be well-versed in these standards and apply them appropriately to ensure that justice is served.
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Last Modified: 04/07/2023