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Beyond Reasonable Doubt? The Burden and Standard of Proof Applicable in Motoring Cases

February 15, 2017 by in category Drink Driving, Drug Driving, Failing To, Insurance, News with 0 and 0
Home > News > Drink Driving > Beyond Reasonable Doubt? The Burden and Standard of Proof Applicable in Motoring Cases
the burden of proof

When facing a motoring charge and awaiting your court date, you may wonder about the proceedings that are about to take place. Who has to prove what and to what level of proof? In criminal proceedings this is called the Burden of Proof and the Standard of Proof respectively, and in most cases, it is up to the Crown to prove their case against the Defendant.

Understanding the Burden of Proof

In all cases in the criminal courts the burden of proof is on the prosecution (CPS). This means they must prove the case against you (the defendant). However, the defendant does not have to prove anything to be found Not Guilty as a defendant can be found not guilty simply because the CPS fails to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt in the first place.

For example, in a drink driving case if there is insufficient proof beyond reasonable doubt that a defendant drove this could lead to an acquittal even if a defendant does not give evidence to say they did not drive. Let’s say there were no witnesses to the defendant driving and the police came along when the defendant was no longer in the car. The defendant does not have to volunteer that they did drove but can argue that the Crown must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. If doubt remains, then the court should acquit without hearing any defence case.

However, there are certain issues in a defence case which trigger a reverse burden of proof. This means that you (the defendant) must raise a particular fact to establish a defence. However, with a reverse burden, the standard of proof will be much lower (on the balance of probabilities).

Defence Issues where a reverse burden applies

As stated above, in a few situations, there is a reverse burden of proof. This means that you (the defendant) must prove particular facts to establish a defence. Some examples of motoring cases which involve a reverse burden are:

  • Failure to Furnish driver detail cases
  • Hip Flask Defence cases
  • In no insurance cases

Failure to Furnish Cases

If you are found to have failed to furnish driver details, a conviction carries a 6 penalty points and up to an £1000 fine. But what if you never received the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) in the post? This is one of the scenarios in which the burden of proof would be put on the defendant to prove that they never received the NIP in the post. Do note, that this will never be a fruitful defence if you didn’t receive the NIP due to your own neglect (didn’t give correct address, wrong information at DVLA given).

Hip Flask Defence Cases

Forgive the name for this defence, as it doesn’t require you to have drank from a hip flask. The hip flask defence entails that post driving you consumed alcohol, and if not for that alcohol you would have been sober at the time of driving. In this case, you would have to prove that the alcohol you drank after driving would have caused you to be over the limit. This is something that would require expert knowledge, primarily from a forensic toxicologist, who would take into account many details such as your weight, height, age, the alcohol that was consumed and over what period of time, and then they would conclude whether it was possible that you were under the limit during the driving that occurred.

No Insurance Cases

Quite simply, one of the main ways to defend a no insurance claim and avoid a conviction in court is to prove that you did have insurance at the time. Alternatively, there is a statutory defence for employees who have relied on an assurance from an employer that insurance cover is in place.

Standard of Proof

The standard of proof in criminal proceedings is always on the prosecution to make the court satisfied to as to be sure of the defendant’s guilt. This is generally referred to as proof beyond reasonable doubt. This means that the prosecution must prove to the court, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was guilty of the offence, and if they cannot and should not be found guilty for that offence.

When the burden of proof is on the defendant, the standard of proof is a balance of probabilities. This means that a defendant must prove (at least 51%) that what they are saying is true. The court would have to acquit if it was more than likely then not that the defendant did not commit the offence. This standard of proof is often referred to as the civil standard as cases in civil law tend to be decided on this basis.

In most cases our clients will be acquitted without having to present any positive defence where our client or defence witnesses give evidence. Frequently, this is because the CPS will fail to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt due to the vast amount of issues and technical defences that we raise either by way of legal argument before a trial commences or through cross examination once a trial is underway.

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