If you’ve ever watched the evening news or one of the many prime time courtroom dramas, you’ve probably heard many times that in order for a jury to convict a person of a crime, they must find them guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But what does that phrase really mean? And how could it affect your case if you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime in Houston?
What is Reasonable Doubt?
“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the legal standard of proof required to find a person guilty of a criminal charge in Texas. It’s based on the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which holds that a person charged with a crime is innocent until found guilty in a court of law. In order to get a conviction, prosecutors must submit sufficient evidence to convince a jury that they are justified, to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt, in finding the defendant guilty of the crimes against which they’ve been charged.
How Does “Beyond A Reasonable Doubt” Affect a Criminal Case?
As part of their instructions, juries in Texas criminal trials are told that they can only find a defendant guilty if they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of their guilt. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows how important this is to their client’s case. All they have to do is create reasonable doubt in the mind of one juror for their client to walk free.
A common defense strategy is to place doubt in the mind of a jurist by relentlessly challenging the evidence submitted by the prosecution. In their closing statements, they will stress the fact that the prosecution has not met the standard of proof and remind the jury of their duty to only convict if they are convinced of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Reasonable Doubt Only Applies in Criminal Cases
It’s important to remember that “beyond a reasonable doubt” only applies in criminal cases. If your crime resulted in property damage, personal injury, or death, you may find yourself the target of civil legal action as a result. In a civil court case, juries are allowed to decide guilt or innocence based upon only a “preponderance of the evidence”. You could find yourself liable for damages even though you were found innocent of criminal charges.
Speak With a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Case
Without a doubt, you’re in trouble if you’ve been arrested on criminal charges in Houston.
Lisa Shapiro Strauss is an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who has helped clients in Bellaire, West University Place, the Galleria, Sharptown, Meyerland, and other Houston neighborhoods after they were charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime. She’s dedicated to protecting the rights of her clients and will use all her legal skills and expertise to get her clients acquitted of the charges against them. In many cases, Lisa’s representation has resulted in reduced charges and even acquittal for her clients.
Contact the law offices of Houston criminal defense attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss to discuss your case.