Burdens Of Proof In the UCMJ Explained

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Let’s talk about the burns of proof in the UCMJ and what do they even mean.

Well, first what you need to know is beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest the highest standard we have in the law.

It is a bar that is set for the prosecution for the government that they must meet they have to jump over. They have to prove in order for you to be found guilty if they meet that bar, if they jump that hurdle the government wins and you lose.

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt is the highest standard we have in the criminal justice system in the UCMJ. It’s higher than probable cause. It’s higher than preponderance of the evidence. It is even higher than clear and convincing evidence. It’s beyond A Reasonable Doubt. Highest standard we have. It is up here. If you want to give a number to the different levels to these different burdens you can use this as an example just for illustrative purposes. Probable cause it’s super low. It’s one of the lowest standards we have in the legal system.

The Supreme Court has actually said that the probable cause standard is incapable of a precise definition or quantification station into percentages because it deals with probabilities and depends on the totality of the circumstances. It only requires a fair probability, not a statistical probability. These numbers I’m giving you are examples it is certainly much lower than 50. It is so low let’s just give it a number of 15 to 20. Next we have preponderance of the evidence – 51 more likely than not. It’s not 50, it’s not a coin flip, it’s not 50 50. It’s 51. Meaning they have to prove that it is more likely than not that you did it. If they proved by 50/50, technically, they haven’t met the standard and you should not be found guilty of that NJP.

If it’s any other Branch other than the Army because the Army uses Beyond A Reasonable Doubt for NJP. You shouldn’t be found to have committed any violations of the UCMJ at a separation board because they use the preponderance of the evidence standard. At a separation board a command investigation or 15-6 also uses preponderance of the evidence – 51 percent. Next we have clear and convincing evidence.

It’s not normally applied in criminal trials but it is still applied in the law the evidence is clear in convincing that you infected. Now it’s not Beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s lower than that 75 chance that you did it. Then we have the highest standard known in the law, Beyond a reasonable doubt. It is higher than clear and convincing evidence. This is one of the ways that the military defines Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. As you can see from the definition it’s an honest misgiving generated by the insufficiency of the evidence. Proof Beyond A Reasonable Doubt means proof to an evidentiary certainty not to a mathematical certainty.

The government doesn’t have to prove that there is a 100 certainty that you did it though, they have to prove Beyond a reasonable doubt that you did it. You can think of it as a 90 to 95 percent chance they must prove by 90 to 95 certainty that you did it. So what is reasonable doubt? I find this last part really important – the proof must exclude every fair and reasonable hypothesis of the evidence except guilt. Put another way if there is another reasonable hypothesis that would explain something other than that you did it that is reasonable doubt and you should be found not guilty that is what the law says.


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