What Does Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Mean?

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Meaning

Definition: As certain as possible under any given circumstances.

This idiom is most commonly used in the legal system to show proof. If somebody is to be judged guilty, he must appear guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or certainly guilty given the circumstances of the trial.

Beyond a reasonable doubt may be used to show certainty in other conversations as well, such as when somebody says, “I am sure I left my wallet on the counter, beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Origin of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

define reasonable doubtThis phrase comes from the modern-day legal system.

In the American legal system, if a jury member has a reasonable doubt that the person on trial might not have done the crime for which he in on trial, then that person cannot be sentenced to jail or prison.

A reasonable doubt implies that there are reasons and evidence for the doubt rather than a gut feeling alone.

The American legal system states that a person must, therefore, be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before being punished for a crime.

It is the prosecution’s duty to prove beyond a reasonable double that the person on trial is, indeed, guilty of the crime.

Examples of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

what does reasonable doubt meanSince the phrase is most commonly used in the legal system, it is used to describe belief in someone.

For example,

He is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


I trust him beyond a reasonable doubt.

Both of these are examples that might be used in the modern day.

This is a somewhat formal phrase that is used in serious contexts.

More Examples

  • Williams said the state failed to meet their burden of proving “every element of the crimes charged” beyond a reasonable doubt, and so the court is “constitutionally required to find the defendant not guilty. –USA Today
  • While proof beyond reasonable doubt may be too high a hurdle in nominally civil cases that can’t result in incarceration, proof by clear and convincing evidence seems the least that due process should demand. –Wall Street Journal


The phrase beyond a reasonable doubt means that something is as certain as possible.