Blog Lecture No. 78: Weight and Sufficiency of Evidence

Let’s get right to it shall we?

What is the standard of evidence needed to win in a civil case?

According to Section 1, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, “In civil cases, the party having burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. ”

What is preponderance of evidence?

In the simplest terms, preponderance of evidence is “where there is more weight or weightier evidence on a particular issue lies.” The rules define it as superior weight of evidence on the issues involved lies.

Here is where you can conjure up the weighing scale of Lady Justice. While she is blind, she will rule in favor the litigant who presented to the weightier evidence on the issue at at. She will rule on the party who proved his/her point more.

For this, the court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses’ manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which there are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon the trial.

Does the court rule in favor of a party who gave more evidence or presented more witnesses?

Not necessarily. Quality and not quantity rules.

The court may also consider the number of witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with the greater number. (Section 1, Rule 133, Rules of Court).

You may have produced more evidence, but were all demolished by your counterpart as irrelevant, immaterial or incredible, you will still lose in a civil case. You may have more witnesses but most of them are convicted perjurers or have questionable backgrounds or motives, or did not actually the events they were testifying on. In such a case, the other party would have presented more preponderant evidence.

What about in criminal cases?

In criminal cases the standard is proof beyond reasonable doubt.

What is that standard?

According to Section 2, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, “Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainly. Moral certainly only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.”

Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean absolute or 100% certainty of guilt. If the witnesses or the documentary (or object evidence) produces a conviction in an unbiased mind, that is enough as proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Here, the judge’s experience and lack of bias is essential. So we really have to get very good judges for criminal cases.

If you can’t produce witnesses, documents or object that do not directly prove that a person actually committed a crime, can you still prove someone’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt?

Yes. Circumstantial evidence can still produce a conviction of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. According to Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if:(

a) There is more than one circumstances;

(b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and

(c) The combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

Can you give an example?

Sure. In an adultery case, you need not produce an eyewitness that saw accused couple in the throws of passion. You can prove the following:

1. They are involved in a relationship, through love letters, eyewitness accounts of them going to social functions together or seen frequently on dates, and publicly displaying their affection for each other.

2. On a certain night, they checked into a motel/hotel, and in hand, just the two of them and not as part of a group.

3. There, they spent the night inside the motel and never left until a significant lapse of time.

Here, an unbiased mind (and not the mind of the aggrieved husband) would reasonably conclude beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused persons committed adultery even though you did not see them doing the dastardly deed. One does not check into a motel or a hotel together hand in hand to hold a private bible study session, you know. The conclusion that they had sexual intercourse is pretty reasonable given the circumstances and fact already proven.

How about in administrative cases or cases before quasi-judicial bodies?

The standard of proof in administrative cases is less, only substantial evidence.

What is that standard of substantial evidence?

It is that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.

So the key terms is relevance and reasonable. For as long as there is some evidence that tend to prove the facts, that is enough as substantial evidence.

Can you give an example?

For government employees, failure to properly account for amounts entrusted to them may lead reasonable mind to conclude they embezzled them, enough to impose sanctions like suspension or dismissal from service. If course, this fact may or may not be enough to land them in jail because the proof required to do that is beyond reasonable doubt.

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