High Burden of Proof

Burden of Proof

With limited exceptions (parking tickets, for example), the State of New Jersey has the burden of proof if you are charged with a crime or traffic offense. The burden of proof for these types of matters is beyond a reasonable doubt. The State typically has the burden to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt as to each element of the offense. An offense may have two or more elements and the State of New Jersey must prove EVERY element beyond a reasonable doubt. Let’s take possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose as an example. In order for the State to prove a defendant guilty of that offense, the State must prove the following things beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) that the defendant had possession of the weapon. Possession can be actual (gun found in the defendant’s actual hand) or constructive (gun is in the glove box of a car driven by defendant), but it needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt; 2) that the gun is an actual weapon, under the statute; 3) that the defendant either actually used the gun for an unlawful purpose or intended to use the weapon for an unlawful purpose. An example of this would be if the defendant threatened to shoot someone with the weapon. It is unlawful to shoot someone (at least, under nearly all circumstances) and thus, that can be used as evidence of intent to use the weapon unlawfully. Compare this to taking the gun to a gun range or to the woods to hunt if the defendant had a hunting license which could be construed as using the gun lawfully. There are additional nuances to this gun example that may come in to play that you may not realize, such as whether the gun is loaded or capable of being fired.

Beyond a reasonable doubt

There are numerous definitions of “beyond a reasonable doubt”, but there is no question that the burden is high. For example, the Supreme Court of the United States says that “proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof, for example, that leaves you firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt. In this world, we know very few things with absolute certainty. In criminal cases, the law does not require proof that overcomes every possible doubt. If, based on your consideration of the evidence, you are firmly convinced that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged, you must find him guilty. If, on the other hand, you are not firmly convinced of defendant’s guilt, you must give defendant the benefit of the doubt and find him not guilty.”

It is also worth considering speaking to an experienced criminal defense attorney like one at Hasner and Hasner, PA because if the State is reliant on documents or evidence other than testimony, they are required to follow the rules of evidence and rules of court to get those pieces of evidence to be considered by the judge or jury. It is not a guarantee that just because a document says something that it will be introduced into evidence or considered by the judge or jury. There are many considerations to look at when determining whether to go to a trial or to consider negotiating a different resolution.

Contact Hasner and Hasner, PA today for a free consultation.