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What Is Reasonable Doubt?

Posted on December 21, 2020

Ross Lutz Barristers Reasonable Doubt Lady Justice

When a person is accused of a crime, it will be up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person did as alleged.

Let’s use a domestic assault allegation as an example. When a person is accused of hitting his wife comes to us to seek our counsel, he is the only person in the room that knows what happened. It isn’t our job to determine who said what or who is telling the truth. This person is presumed innocent. This presumption remains throughout his case until such time as the Crown has submitted enough admissible evidence to satisfy a court beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty.

How Does This Work In Court?

What is reasonable doubt? It doesn’t mean proof to an absolute certainty, but it is closer to absolute certainty than a balance of probabilities. This comes from the leading decision on reasonable doubt, R v Starr, [2000] 2 SCR 144 (SCC). A reasonable amount of doubt is not an imaginary or frivolous doubt. It is based on reason and common sense. A reasonable doubt is derived from the evidence or absence of evidence. Even if a Court thinks the accused is probably guilty or likely guilty, this is not enough. If this is the circumstance, then the Court must give the benefit of the doubt to the accused and find him not guilty. In that circumstance, the prosecution failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Let me explain how we advance reasonable doubt on your behalf in our domestic assault example. We prepare you for trial by collecting your version of events as early as possible. We will carefully scrutinize the police information or disclosure. Afterwards, we build a legal argument brick by brick. We may have to advance further investigation on your behalf and or take other steps. The work is never easy, but we always focus on the best way to work with reasonable doubt.

Requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt in order to establish guilt is a fundamental “golden thread” in criminal law. It is a constitutionally protected right pursuant to section 11(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We try to persuade the Court to reach the conclusion that there is reasonable doubt within the case. This is based upon an assessment of evidence, or the lack of evidence, in the case. This is exactly why a careful scrutiny of the evidence and a diligent construction of the legal argument is so critically important. Reasonable doubt exists on a spectrum.

Reasonable Doubt diagram Ross Lutz

It is important that your lawyer understand the spectrum of doubt and how to advance an argument with reasonable doubt in mind. It’s also important that your lawyer is experienced and knows the jurist and knows where he or she lands on the spectrum.

You need the right legal team on your side. At Ross Lutz Barristers, we’ll help you fight for you with reasonable doubt at the forefront of our plan by preparing the the defense you deserve.