Why Are There Different Standards of Proof in Some Fields Of Law?

One of the most surprising things for folks unfamiliar with the law to learn is that different fields of law often times have different standards of proof. If you're familiar with any of the standards used, it's probably the burden of proof for the prosecution in a criminal case. This is the so-called "beyond a shadow of a doubt" standard. Let's take a look at three of the standards you or someone you know might come into contact with at some point.

Criminal Standard

When a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney face off, the burden of proof falls to the prosecution. This is the previously state high standard where the prosecution has to remove all reasonable doubts about the guilt of the defendant. Notably, the criminal defense side of the equation doesn't have an obligation to prove or even disprove anything. If a criminal defense attorney and their client feel the prosecution has failed to prove their case, it's well within the defense's rights to rest without discussing any of it.

Civil Standard

In civil court proceedings, the burden of proof falls to the plaintiff. However, the standard of proof is only that their version of events is more than likely not the truth. For example, a personal injury lawyer only has to prove that the defendant likely was responsible for the harm that came to their client. You should note, however, that contributory negligence rules in many cases can take some of the sting out of a judgment. This occurs when the evidence shows the plaintiff was partly responsible for what happened. In these cases, a personal injury attorney might not be able to recover the full dollar amount they were seeking. Instead, the percentage of the plaintiff's contribution to events will be subtracted from the compensation total.

Divorce Standard

A divorce lawyer frequently has to deal with a no-fault system. In this scenario, the guilt of one party could meet or even surpass the criminal standard and it would mean nothing. For a divorce attorney, there's often nothing more to prove beyond the fact that one party wants out of the marriage.

To be clear, this standard means the court doesn't particularly care how awful anyone's conduct was. Infidelity, for example, is usually treated as not worth the court's time. If there's a serious problem, such as physical abuse, that will be referred to a criminal court. However, all the family court judge will do is grant the petition to terminate the marriage.