What Does the “Reasonable Doubt” Standard Mean?
When you are facing criminal charges, the Crown is required to prove that you are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In addition, the Crown bears the entire burden of proof in criminal cases and the defendant does not have to testify, nor call any witnesses, nor prove anything at all. The burden of proof is on the Crown—and it is a high burden.
The burden of proof in criminal cases is high because the consequences for the accused likewise are high. Defendants who face criminal charges, particularly for indictable offences, generally face time in prison and other harsh consequences. Because Canada has a system that presumes that people are innocent until proven guilty, the burden of proof required to prove guilt is high before the Crown can send them to prison and take their freedom away.
“Reasonable Doubt” Does Not Mean “Any Doubt”
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that jurors should receive instruction that “reasonable doubt” cannot consist of doubt based on sympathy for the accused or any prejudice, for whatever reason, for or against anyone involved in the case. To make a doubt reasonable, jurors must root it in logic, reason, or common sense. They can base it on the evidence presented at trial, or the lack of evidence presented at trial. For example, lack of evidence on a central element of a criminal case could result in reasonable doubt.
Furthermore, the Crown is not required to prove its case beyond all doubt. Proof to an absolute certainty is likely impossible in most cases. Even if the crime was recorded on audio and video of excellent quality, clearly portraying the accused in the act of committing the crime, in modern times, the use of computer-generated images could throw at least a tiny doubt on the veracity of the recordings.
In a case involving indictable offences, the accused can choose to have a only judge in hear the case provincial court, or a judge and jury to hear it in superior court, or a judge alone to try it in superior court. When only the judge hears the case, the judge is called the “trier of fact.” When a jury is chosen, the jury constitutes the trier of fact. The Crown must convince the trier of fact of the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt of every element of the crime in question.
To convict in a criminal case, the trier of fact needs to feel reasonably sure that the accused person committed the crime—not absolutely certain. Believing that the accused probably committed the offence, or might have done so, or being suspicious of the accused, is not enough to prove guilt. That nebulous level of certainty—which is not certainty at all—can only result in acquittal. If a juror isn’t sure of guilt based on rational, articulable reasons, the Crown has not met its burden of proof.
If You Are Facing Criminal Charges in the Calgary area, Contact the Lawyers of Bourdon Defence
A conviction of criminal charges can carry steep consequences, in many cases including substantial time in jail. If you are facing such charges, the Crown faces a high standard of proof. Still, many people are convicted of offences, and you should hire an experienced lawyer to help you defend yourself against such charges and hold the Crown to that high standard.
The lawyers of Bourdon Defence can assist you in protecting your rights under such circumstances. Reach us at (403) 474-4143 or through our websiteh our website to learn more.