Passing the Bar ExamPassing the Bar Exam

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Passing the Bar Exam

When I was a child, I loved watching television programs about criminal court cases. I enjoyed watching a skillful criminal attorney find a way to get his client off the hook. During high school, I even thought about becoming a lawyer myself. If you’re preparing to become a criminal attorney, you might be studying for the bar exam. This comprehensive test causes many prospective lawyers to miss a few nights of sleep. One good idea when studying for this exam is to talk with other criminal attorneys. This is a great way to learn firsthand about procedures, laws, and interesting cases. On this blog, you will learn how to jumpstart your criminal law career by studying successfully for the bar exam.


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Why Are There Different Standards Of Proof In American Courts?

When a defendant goes into court, the standard of proof for their case is likely to depend on which type of court they're in. Criminal and civil proceedings are governed by different standards, and it's important to understand the implications. Let's look at why there are differing standards of proof and what they are.

Reasons for the Difference

Criminal cases have a higher standard of proof than any others in the American court system. The risk that the defendant could be deprived of their freedom or even their life means juries and judges have to be more careful. Otherwise, there is a risk that someone innocent could pay dearly for an offense.

On the flip side, most civil cases lead to compensation that's meant to even things out. In the strictest sense, the courts don't see this as the defendant losing anything. For example, a personal injury claim is about what the plaintiff has lost. The compensation paid to the plaintiff is meant to get things back to as close to even as can happen after an injury. Consequently, a lower standard of proof applies.

The Criminal Standard of Proof

When a criminal lawyer examines a case, they're trying to figure out whether the prosecution can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Notably, this doesn't mean there would be no doubts if someone is convicted. Instead, it means that a reasonable person wouldn't doubt the defendant's guilt in light of the available evidence.

You should also note that the standard doesn't immediately go to "beyond a reasonable doubt." During the arraignment process, the prosecution merely has to show there's good reason to believe a crime may have been committed and that the defendant was the perpetrator. The higher standard that a criminal defense lawyer wants to hold the prosecution to doesn't kick in until you get to trial.

The Civil Standard

In civil court, the standard is "the preponderance of the evidence." Attorneys often call this the 51% standard because the goal is to show that your side's argument is more likely than not the truth.

This can run up against some interesting issues, though. For example, personal injury law allows defendants to use force majeure as a defense. This means that if a greater force, such as a freak rainstorm, occurred, they might point to the storm as the cause of the injuries. However, the plaintiff just has to show that the defendant's actions and not the storm were most likely the cause.