A standard of proof is the level of evidence that is required to prove a fact or allegation in a legal case. Different standards of proof are used in different types of legal cases.
In Oregon law, there are three different standards of proof: 1. Preponderance of the evidence: This is the lowest standard of proof and is used in most civil cases. It requires that the evidence presented be more likely than not to be true. 2. Clear and convincing evidence: This is a higher standard of proof than preponderance of the evidence and is used in some civil cases, such as cases involving fraud or termination of parental rights. It requires that the evidence presented be highly and substantially more likely to be true than not true. 3. Beyond a reasonable doubt: This is the highest standard of proof and is used in criminal cases. It requires that the evidence presented be so convincing that there can be no reasonable doubt in the mind of a rational person that the defendant committed the crime.
The standard of proof is important because it determines the burden of proof that is required in a case. The burden of proof is the responsibility of the party bringing the case to present enough evidence to meet the standard of proof required.
The lowest standard of proof: “Preponderance of the Evidence”
"Preponderance of the evidence" under Oregon law means that there is more evidence in favor of one side of an argument than there is for the other side. This is the standard of proof in most civil cases, including personal injury cases. Essentially, if you were to balance all the evidence on the scales of justice, the side that just barely tips would prevail.
For example, in a personal injury case, the plaintiff (the person who was injured) would have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant (the person accused of causing the injury) was negligent and that their negligence caused the plaintiff's injuries. This means that the plaintiff would have to present evidence that is more convincing than the evidence presented by the defendant. If the plaintiff can prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, they may be awarded damages to compensate them for their injuries.
The middle standard of proof: “Clear and Convincing Evidence”
"Clear and convincing evidence" is a higher standard of proof than "preponderance of the evidence" in Oregon law. It means that the evidence presented must be highly and substantially more likely to be true than not true. It requires more evidence to meet this standard, and it is often used in cases that involve serious consequences such as termination of parental rights, fraud, or constitutional rights.
For example, in a case where a parent is accused of abusing or neglecting their child, the state must present clear and convincing evidence to support the claim. This means that the state must provide evidence that is highly and substantially more likely to be true than not true. The state may use medical records, witness statements, and other evidence to support their case. If the state meets the clear and convincing evidence standard, the court may terminate the parent's parental rights.
The highest standard: “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”
"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the highest standard of proof in Oregon law, and it is used in criminal cases. This standard requires that the prosecution prove its case to such a degree that there can be no reasonable doubt in the mind of a rational person that the defendant committed the crime.
For example, in a murder case, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. The prosecution will present evidence such as witness testimony, forensic evidence, and other evidence to support their case. If the jury has any reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, they must find the defendant not guilty. This high standard of proof is used to protect the innocent from being wrongfully convicted of a crime.