The Pennsylvania prosecution must convict the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case. This often misunderstood term can mean the difference between a conviction and a dismissal.

Merriam Webster explains that the evidence or lack thereof must leave no doubt as to the defendant’s guilt in a case. The jury evaluates the evidence in a fair and thorough manner to determine if any doubt is left. When there is no moral certainty, the jury cannot convict the defendant, especially in a criminal case.

The dictionary goes further stating that courts use doubt in the sense of hesitation by a reasonable person before making an important decision. Each offense is subject to the same scrutiny prior to conviction.

The Legal Dictionary goes a step further to provide examples. It defines reasonable as “acceptable to sound reason or judgment, logical” and being uncertain about the truth as doubt. The late 18th century found the first usage in the English legal system that is now part of the American court system.

The attorney or defendant, if using no attorney, must provide the court with a burden of proof of either innocence or guilt in the crime. In a criminal defense case, the prosecutor wants to prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. He or she wants the evidence to irrevocably convince the jury of the defendant’s guilt.

Perhaps one of the most famous recent examples is the O.J. Simpson case in 1995. All that Simpson’s attorneys had to do was plant a small amount of doubt in the minds of the jurors regarding the crime.