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Preponderance of Evidence: Definition & Standard

Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Once you complete this lesson, you will understand what constitutes the preponderance of the evidence standard. You will examine the definition and review the standard utilized in court.

Definition

When you go to court, you must make your case. In other words, you must prove that the allegations you're claiming are true. You will most likely do this by presenting evidence. In a civil case, you must present a preponderance of the evidence.

The preponderance of the evidence is a standard of evidence, or standard of proof, used in civil trials. Civil trials are cases which involve questions that are not criminal in nature. In other words, in a civil trial, you are seeking to resolve an issue of liability for wrongdoing. For instance, you may be seeking to show that A, a toothpaste manufacturer, negligently made its toothpaste so it turned your teeth blue when you were using it. To do so, you would need to show a preponderance of evidence to back your claim. Conversely, a criminal case involves a standard of evidence that is beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a more stringent evaluation of evidence because in a criminal case you are dealing with the possible incarceration of an individual.

During the civil case, the plaintiff, the one who initiates the case, will have the burden of proof to make their case. The plaintiff, therefore, must present evidence to support their allegations. Such proof may consist of witness testimony, documents, photographic evidence and more. The plaintiff must prove to the judge or jury that the preponderance of this evidence presented proves his version of the case. It is then up to the defense attorney to discredit the evidence and show why, and how, the evidence does not support the allegations.

Standard

There is no specific definition of exactly what constitutes the preponderance of the evidence; instead, the concept is somewhat elusive. Nevertheless, we can safely say that under the preponderance of evidence standard, more than fifty percent of the evidence should support the allegations made.

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