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Criminal procedure

burden of proof

Burden of proof refers to the amount of evidence or proof required to adequately prove disputed facts in a court of law, and which party has the obligation to prove the disputed facts in order to prevail in court. In criminal prosecutions (cases) the government or prosecution has the burden to prove the accused defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This has been the standard for criminal prosecutions in the United States since at least 1880 when it was first mentioned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The determination of whether there is reasonable doubt as to an accused defendant’s guilt may be characterized by the question of whether there is an alternative explanation of the facts that seems plausible to the jurors.

In Texas, as in all states across the United States, the burden of proof in criminal prosecutions lies with the government or prosecution. This means that it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove the defendant's guilt 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' This standard is the highest in the legal system and requires that the evidence presented by the prosecution must be so conclusive and complete that there are no reasonable doubts regarding the defendant's guilt. If the jurors find that there is a plausible alternative explanation of the facts that could suggest the defendant's innocence, then they are obliged to acquit. This standard has been a cornerstone of the American criminal justice system since it was articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1880s and continues to be a fundamental principle in protecting the rights of the accused in Texas and throughout the country.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970)
This U.S. Supreme Court case established the principle that the government must prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt in juvenile court proceedings, which has been applied to all criminal prosecutions.

In the landmark case of In re Winship, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which they are charged. This standard is the highest standard of proof used in court and is required in all criminal cases because it has a direct relation to the presumption of innocence that provides the foundation for the criminal justice system. The reasonable doubt standard is an ancient and honored aspect of our criminal law traditions, reflecting the importance of ensuring that only the truly guilty are convicted.

18 U.S.C. § 3231 - District courts
This statute grants federal district courts jurisdiction over all offenses against the laws of the United States, where the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt applies.

18 U.S.C. § 3231 establishes the jurisdiction of federal district courts over all offenses against the laws of the United States. While the statute itself does not explicitly mention the burden of proof, it is understood through case law and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that the standard of proof required in these courts for criminal cases is 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' This statute is relevant because it underpins the authority of federal courts to hear cases where the government must meet this burden of proof to obtain a conviction.

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 29 - Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal
This rule allows a defendant to seek a judgment of acquittal if the evidence presented by the prosecution is insufficient to sustain a conviction under the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that after the government closes its evidence or after the close of all evidence, the court on a defendant's motion must enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. This rule is directly related to the burden of proof, as it allows a defendant to challenge the sufficiency of the government's evidence to meet the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard. If the court finds that no rational trier of fact could have found proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it must enter a judgment of acquittal.

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 11 - Pleas
This rule governs how pleas are entered in federal criminal proceedings and ensures that a defendant's plea of guilty is made voluntarily and with an understanding of the nature of the charge and the consequences of the plea.

Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure outlines the procedures for the taking of a plea in federal criminal cases. It requires the court to inform the defendant of, and determine that the defendant understands, various rights, including the right to be tried by a jury and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The rule ensures that a defendant's decision to waive these rights and plead guilty is made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. This is relevant to the burden of proof because it reflects the importance of the defendant's understanding of the standard that would be applied should they choose to go to trial.