Skip to Content

What Is the Burden of Proof in a Criminal Case?

Standards for Prosecuting Reported Criminals

If you were charged with a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty. It’s your Constitutional right. But to prove that you are guilty of the crime, prosecutors have the most challenging burden of proof in law, one that must be beyond a reasonable doubt.

The burden of proof in criminal cases, by definition, generally describes the standard that prosecutors must satisfy to legally establish a fact of guilt. As such, prosecutors have the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to confirm their conviction. This means that prosecutors must convince the jury that there is no other reasonable explanation that can arise from the evidence presented at trial, meaning the jury must be certain of the defendant’s guilt to give a guilty verdict.

However, you must know that you, the defendant, do not have to prove your innocence. Instead, your criminal defense attorney must raise questions and doubt about the prosecution’s evidence against you. For example, if you are accused of shoplifting a pair of shoes, you must justify that you lawfully possessed the allegedly stolen shoes by presenting a receipt or other type of evidence that raises doubt of your guilt.

Another factor that prosecutors almost always have the burden of proving in criminal cases is intent. Depending on your criminal charges, prosecutors must either prove that you intended to cause a certain outcome from your crimes or that you intended to commit a crime altogether. This is referred to as specific intent and general intent, respectively.

Referring to the example above, a conviction for stealing the pair of shoes would be a specific intent crime because you stole them with the intent to not return the shoes. A general intent crime, for instance, would be battery. Battery is defined in Wisconsin statutes as the intent to cause bodily harm to a person without their consent, therefore a person who punches another person in the stomach intentionally would have committed a general intent crime. This is because the person intentionally punched the other in the stomach but did not intend to cause harm or injury.

Scrutinizing Every Element of the Prosecution’s Case

To maximize the chances of receiving a favorable verdict or reduced legal penalties in your case, our Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer will challenge every questionable detail in the prosecution’s case to make it more difficult for them to satisfy their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. As a former prosecutor himself, Attorney Cherella can anticipate the prosecution’s attacks and build fierce defense strategies accordingly. He knows which tactics may help diminish the prosecution’s case against you, potentially allowing you to walk away from your case.

To learn whether your case may be defendable, please contact us at (414) 882-8382!