Whenever a case is filed in a Michigan court, the entity or person initiating it has certain duties and responsibilities.
Among these is the very basic proposition that in order to prevail they must “prove their case.”
This means that they have what is called the “burden of proof” and if the burden is not met at a trial or a hearing the case will be dismissed.
In all cases, evidence must be presented and the required burden of proof level depends on whether it is a criminal or civil matter.
The following are some common examples of the required standards.
At a criminal trial a defendant starts with the presumption that they are innocent.
To overcome this the prosecutor must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a “reasonable doubt.”
A reasonable doubt is a fair honest doubt growing out of the evidence or lack of evidence, it is not merely an imaginary doubt, but a doubt based on reason and common sense after a careful and considered examination of the evidence.
In criminal felony cases there is a pretrial hearing in district court called a preliminary examination.
This hearing determines whether there is “probable cause” for the defendant to stand trial at circuit court and it is the prosecutor’s burden to prove it.
Probable cause requires evidence, which is sufficient to cause a reasonable person of ordinary prudence and caution to conscientiously entertain a reasonable belief of the defendant’s guilt.
For most civil cases, the burden of proof is for the plaintiff to establish their claim by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means proving that it is more likely than not that it is true.
For certain other civil matters the burden is higher (such as changing child custody or fraud) and proof by “clear and convincing evidence” is required. This means that the evidence must be strong enough to cause the trier of fact to have a clear and firm belief that it is true.
One of the main reasons for these burden of proof standards is to ensure that when a case is filed all parties know what is expected both to proceed and defend.
Our system of justice would have it no other way.