December 14, 2016

Who Has The Burden Of Proof In A Criminal Case?

burden of proof in a Nevada criminal case

In a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proof. At the federal level, the prosecution must meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. At the state level, some states require the prosecution to meet the burden beyond a reasonable doubt while others use the preponderance of the evidence test.

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In Nevada, the prosecution must prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence and the defendant must meet the same burden of proof for its defense.

The highest burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, refers to the prosecution presenting evidence and argument such that each juror feels “a moral certainty” of the defendant’s guilt. Put another way; the prosecution showed there could be no reasonable alternative to the guilt of the accused in committing the crime of which they’re accused.

A preponderance of the evidence refers to a lesser burden of proof that requires the prosecution present evidence and argument that when compared to the defendant’s argument, proves more convincing and reflects the more probable version of events.

Nevada also instructs a jury to adhere to the standard of “clear and convincing evidence” which describes an intermediate degree of proof that produces a firm conviction to the truth of the allegations or defense.

The differences between legal and evidential burden of proof

Legal burden of proof refers to the burden of persuasion, while evidential burden of proof refers to the burden of production of evidence.

The burden of persuasion refers to the level of proof needed, for example, reasonable doubt, and the success of the argument presented.

The evidential burden refers to presenting sufficient evidence to consider a matter in a case and to the existence of a fact (or non-existence). For example, if a defendant asserts a self-defense plea, the defendant must produce sufficient evidence to prove the argument or assertion.

What does the defendant have to prove?

While the prosecution must produce evidence regarding each element of the crime, the defendant need only cast doubt regarding one aspect. All evidence presented by either side must follow the rules of evidence.

In a criminal case, the prosecution must share with the defense all evidence it plans to present through a process known as discovery. This occurs in advance of trial and allows the defense adequate time and information to mount its defense.

The defendant may challenge the evidence, assert an alibi or the may choose to assert an affirmative defense such as insanity, self-defense, duress, necessity, contributory negligence or entrapment. Regardless of the chosen defense, the defendant must produce evidence to prove it.

For instance, if presenting an insanity defense, testimony and affidavits from one or more psychiatrists attesting to the defendant’s reduced or impaired mental state at the time of the crime and its potential effect on their activity would be considered evidence. If accused of theft, a receipt of purchase for the item would constitute evidence to cast doubt on guilt. In a criminal case, the defendant may present character witnesses.

What does the prosecution have to prove?

In contrast, the prosecution must produce evidence on each aspect or element of the crime alleged. The greater burden always rests on the prosecution. The prosecution must convince the jury that its version of events occurred as asserted.

Another aspect of the prosecution’s burden is the proof of intent. The burden here varies with the level of the crime.

For example, a general intent crime such as simple assault and battery requires the prosecution show the defendant hit someone or acted with disregard when there was an apparent risk of striking someone.

In contrast, a specific intent crime such as assault with intent to rob requires that the prosecution proves that the defendant struck someone and that he did so because he intended to rob them. Even if the defendant did not rob them, because, say the crime was interrupted, the prosecution must prove the robbery intention to meet its burden.

Next Steps: Preparing for Your Case with A Nevada Criminal Defense Lawyer

Before you go to court for a criminal case in Nevada, meet with your criminal defense attorney and discuss the following aspects of your case:

– The elements of the charged crime(s)

– Affirmative defenses you could assert

– Required defense evidence and the standard of proof required

– Whether to call character witnesses

– Any potential alibi witnesses

– Whether to use a trial before a judge or a jury

Review the prosecutorial evidence together. Offer your attorney any evidence you can to refute the prosecution’s evidence.

If you need assistance or legal advice with your criminal case, contact the offices of Marchiano Law today, 702-728-3226 for a free case consultation. We practice in several areas of criminal defense and will counsel you from the beginning until the end of your case.