What is reasonable doubt?

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2019 | Uncategorized |

The idea of reasonable doubt is at the heart of the legal system in this country. When juries or a judge hear a case in North Carolina, they often have to consider reasonable doubt. It is not uncommon for jurors to ask what constitutes reasonable doubt. In these cases, it is often difficult for a judge to explain what it means. In fact, even the highest court in the land has often struggled with defining the term. It is not as straightforward as it may seem.

 In general, according to USA Today, most courts define reasonable doubt as being doubt that comes from considering the facts in a reasonable manner. Even this is a little confusing. Looking at an example may help you understand better. You come upon a tree that has fallen on top of a car after a storm. It is reasonable to believe that the storm caused the tree to fall and damage the car. It would not be reasonable to assume that the car was in an accident that caused the damage. Most people in the same situation would draw the same conclusions you did about the tree causing the damage. Therefore, making your assumptions reasonable.

 When applied to a case, reasonable doubt is something that makes you not believe something based on your ability to reason. Essentially, if you can think of an alternative to what is being presented to you and you think others would also think of that alternative, then that could be reasonable doubt.

 It is very difficult to give an exact definition to this term because it is a very personal term. Reasonable doubt could be different for each individual. That is why courts will often not define it more than giving a generic answer like the one above. This information is for education and is not legal advice.