If you are on trial for a criminal offense, this could be anything from theft to murder, and you need to get the judge and/or jury to see the possibility that you are innocent. This is where reasonable doubt comes into play at trials. Your lawyer, in a sense, doesn't have to prove absolutely that you didn't commit the crime; they just need to plant the seed of doubt in the juror's head.
What is Reasonable Doubt?
In a criminal trial, the burden of proof that you are guilty of what you were charged with lies with the prosecution. They must prove beyond a "reasonable doubt" that you were the one who did the deed and that no other person could be responsible.
A defense attorney does not need to prove that their client is not guilty, per se; they need to place some doubt over the prosecution's case, and over the fact that it was you who did it. A defense lawyer may do this in a number of ways. They can challenge the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses by using past cases against them-- for example, their actions during or after the crime.
Reasonable doubt can be raised by the defense attorney hiring their own forensic investigators and having their own expert witnesses testify why it's reasonable that someone else committed the crime. This is almost like presenting their own evidence to the court to refute what the prosecution has brought to the table.
How Does This Help Your Case?
When reasonable doubt is planted in the minds of the jurors, it gets them thinking that there could be another way this crime happened. It opens up the possibility that there is someone else responsible and that you are innocent of the charges.
If even one jury member has a reasonable doubt that the crime did not happen the way the prosecution said it did, they must give a verdict of not guilty. In some cases, it will only take a single jury member to feel there is enough reasonable doubt in the case to create a hung jury and a mistrial in some cases. If the reasonable doubt is strong enough, it is possible the charges could be dismissed completely.
In order for reasonable doubt to be effective, there needs to be a clear showing of lack of evidence and that the prosecution didn't completely prove that the person on trial is definitely the person who should be convicted. Click here to read more.