What is Evidentiary Standards?

Evidentiary standards refer to the level of evidence required to prove guilt in a criminal case. Several different standards of proof may be used in criminal cases, each with its own requirements for the type and amount of evidence needed to establish guilt.

The most common evidentiary standards used in criminal cases include reasonable suspicion, probable cause, preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, and beyond a reasonable doubt.

Reasonable suspicion is the lowest evidentiary standard used in criminal cases. It is typically required for a stop-and-frisk or brief investigative detention. This standard is used when a law enforcement officer has a belief, based on specific facts or circumstances, that an individual is engaged in criminal activity.

Probable cause is a higher evidentiary standard than reasonable suspicion. It is required for a warrant or arrest. This standard is used when there is enough evidence to suggest that it is likely that the individual committed the crime.

Preponderance of the evidence is a standard that requires the evidence presented in a case to show that it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the crime. This is the standard used in civil cases, such as personal injury lawsuits.

Clear and convincing evidence is a higher standard than preponderance of the evidence. It requires evidence that is highly and substantially more probable to be true than not. This standard is sometimes used in civil cases but is also used in some criminal cases, such as in cases involving termination of parental rights or commitment to a mental institution.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest evidentiary standard and is required in criminal cases where the defendant's freedom is at stake. It requires that the evidence presented is so strong and convincing that there is no reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors that the defendant committed the crime.

Understanding evidentiary standards is important in criminal justice as it helps to ensure that individuals are not convicted without sufficient evidence and protects against wrongful convictions.