Preponderance of Evidence
In both criminal and civil cases, there is a specific amount, or standard of evidence that must be met before a defendant can be found guilty. This standard is often interchanged with the term “burden of proof.” In criminal cases, the burden of proof is extremely high, requiring a proof of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Numerically speaking, there must be 100% surety of guilt. This high level of necessary proof is because the punishment in criminal cases typically involves revoking one’s civil liberties, and may include imprisonment or even death.
In civil cases, however, the burden of proof is much lower. Firstly, the punishment in civil courts is much less severe (for the most part) than criminal courts, typically involving financial penalties. Secondly, it is almost impossible, in civil cases, to achieve the level of proof to show that someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, as very rarely does one person command the same types of investigative resources as a city, state, or federal government.
The level of proof necessary for a defendant to be found guilty in a civil court is referred to as a “preponderance of evidence”. Whereas, in a criminal court, the standard of proof is set at 100%, in a civil court, a verdict may only require proving that a defendant is more than 50% guilty. Oftentimes the preponderance of evidence is set higher or lower, depending on the gravity of the accusation and the severity of the punishment involved.