Reasonable Doubt Has a New Jury Instruction
Feb. 2, 2023
A prosecutor has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is standard in all criminal cases in all criminal courts throughout the United States.
The standard comes from our founding fathers. Their logic was the tyrannical English could easily arrest and detain a citizen with little to no proof. To protect the citizens of their new government, they would require the government to meet a high bar before a citizen was put in jail or deprived of their property.
Recently, the Colorado Supreme Court changed the jury instructions. The change is small, but a minor change can cause significant impact for a criminal defendant. If you are facing criminal charges, do not hesitate to contact our criminal defense attorney.
We offer free consultations to anyone that has questions. Our criminal defense lawyer handles domestic violence cases and driving under the influence.
What is Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard used in all criminal cases. The Colorado Jury instructions defines proof beyond a reasonable doubt as a doubt based on upon reason and common sense.
It arises from a fair and rational consideration of all the evidence. It can also be based on the lack of evidence. It is a doubt which is not vague or speculative. It is not imaginary.
The last line of the definition is what has been changed. It used to read that it was “a doubt as would cause reasonable people to hesitate to act in matters of importance to themselves”. The new definition instructs jurors that if they are “firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt, then the prosecution as proven the crime charged beyond reasonable doubt”.
The language that was changed was one line. It may not seem like a major chain, but the definition is contained on a standard jury instruction that would be given during any criminal defense trial.
What are Criminal Jury Instructions?
A jury is made of random people from the community. The ideal juror is a citizen of the community that does not understand the legal system. Jurors are to be the finders of fact. The judge is the finder of law.
This means the judge will control the proceeding. They will provide rulings on what evidence can be admitted. They will also decide what legal instructions will be given to the jury.
A standard instruction given in any criminal case would be the beyond a reasonable doubt instruction. This instruction will apply to any criminal case. From a traffic ticket to a murder, the prosecution will always be held to a beyond a reasonable doubt standard.
Why is the Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Standard Important?
The standard of proof in a criminal case is importance because of the consequences of a criminal conviction. A criminal conviction can result in jail, a fine, or probation.
Felonies are the most serious crimes that a defendant can be charged with under Colorado Law. A felony conviction can result in years of prison time being imposed. A felony conviction on a defendant’s record can result in other consequences, such as lose of employment or housing.
Misdemeanors can cause the same level of problems for a defendant as well. While prison isn’t available for a misdemeanor offense, a defendant can still be put in jail. A short jail sentence of a few days can still result in a person losing their job. This could lead to additional problems for the defendant in other areas.
There are also stigmas that come with certain convictions. Almost any crime in the state of Colorado can be classified as an act of domestic violence, including non-violent crimes. Most people looking conducting a background check on a defendant will only see the domestic violence designation. There will not be a deeper dive into the circumstances of the conviction.
False allegations happen. An alleged victim can also exaggerate or not remember the case correctly. An arresting officer could also not conduct a sufficient investigation. The standard of proof would impact all these factors. It also impacts affirmative defense, such as the common defense of self-defense.
A criminal conviction of any type can significantly impact a person’s life. The change in the standard of proof is minor. It is only one sentence, but the sentence has a massive impact to a juror reading and understanding of the phrase.
The sentence in this case slightly lowers the standard. That is contrary to the purpose of the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. If we are going to impower the government to punish criminal defendants, we want to make sure the government proves that case to the highest standard.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney if you are facing Criminal Charges
The Lawrence Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm in Aurora, Colorado. We handle cases in the Denver Metro area. Our firm defends against criminal charges on a regular basis. We handle cases in Denver, Aurora, Arapahoe County, Adams County or any court in the State of Colorado.
The goal of the firm is to provide essential services to defendant’s charged with any criminal offense in Colorado. We do handle DUI cases and Domestic Violence charges allegations. We offer payment plans, and we are willing to work with a defendant on budget.
Request a free consultation today.