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July 25, 2022 by Tom Roberts, Esq.

What is proof beyond a reasonable doubt in Virginia?

Must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence and be consistent only with the guilt of an accused!

Suspicion or “probably” is NOT enough!

“It is elementary that the burden is on the Commonwealth to prove every essential element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence and be consistent only with the guilt of an accused.” Id. “The fact finder, however, is entitled to draw inferences from proved facts, so long as the inferences are reasonable and justified.” Id. (citing Webb v. Commonwealth, 204 Va. 24, 34, 129 S.E.2d 22, 29 (1963); Bell v. Commonwealth, 11 Va. App. 530, 533, 399 S.E.2d 450, 452, 7 Va. Law Rep. 1195 (1991)). When facts are equally susceptible to more than one interpretation, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused, the trier of fact cannot arbitrarily adopt an inculpatory interpretation.” Moody v. Commonwealth, 28 Va. App. 702, 706, 508 S.E.2d 354, 356 (1998) (citing Corbett v. Commonwealth, 210 Va. 304, 307, 171 S.E.2d 251, 253 (1969)). “‘However, the Commonwealth need only exclude reasonable hypotheses of innocence that flow from the evidence, not those that spring from the imagination of the defendant.'” Emerson v. Commonwealth, 43 Va. App. 263, 277, 597 S.E.2d 242, 249 (2004) (quoting Hamilton v. Commonwealth, 16 Va. App. 751, 755, 433 S.E.2d 27, 29, 10 Va. Law Rep. 28 (1993)). “‘The statement that circumstantial evidence must exclude every reasonable theory of innocence is simply another way of stating that the Commonwealth has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.'” Taylor v. Commonwealth, 61 Va. App. 13, 30, 733 S.E.2d 129, 138 (2012) (quoting Kelly v. Commonwealth, 41 Va. App. 250, 258, 584 S.E.2d 444, 447-48 (2003) (en banc)).
Case v. Commonwealth, 63 Va. App. 14, 22-23, 753 S.E.2d 860, 864 (2014)

Evidence must lead a reasonable mind irresistibly to a conclusion

‘While no single piece of evidence may be sufficient, the “combined force of many concurrent and related circumstances, each insufficient in itself, may lead a reasonable mind irresistibly to a conclusion.”‘” Commonwealth v. Hudson, 265 Va. 505, 514, 578 S.E.2d 781, 786 (2003) (quoting Derr v. Commonwealth, 242 Va. 413, 425, 410 S.E.2d 662, 669, 8 Va. Law Rep. 1350 (1991)).
Jhurilal v. Commonwealth, No. 2627-10-2, 2011 Va. App. LEXIS 302, at *5-6 (Ct. App. Oct. 4, 2011)


The materials are prepared for information purposes only.  The materials are not legal advice.  You should not act upon the information without seeking the advice of an attorney.  Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship.


Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C.
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Richmond, Virginia 23219
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