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Criminal Law
West Virginia University School of Law
Elkins, James R.


Standards of Proof
1) Sufficiency of the evidence—very vague; easiest standard to meet; only sufficient or limited evidence needed (SoE)
2) Preponderance of the evidence (PoE)—about 51% test
3) Clear and Convincing evidence (CCE)—the 75% test
4) Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (BRD)—the 99% test

Elements Necessary to Convict of a Crime (Generally):
1) Actus reus—the physical component; the act
2) Mens Rea—criminal intent; ∆’s state of mind
3) Causation
4) Harm

Appellate Review

Burdon of Proof – always implicated in reviews.

Who has the burden of proof? In most instances it’s on the prosecution, in some instances it’s on the defendant: to bring up evidence in self defense, competency to stand trial, and insanity, for instance.

Sufficiency of the evidence Review

The evidence is read in the light most favorable to the prosecution, trying to determine if the evidence was such to satisfy the prosecution’s burden.
Could a reasonable jury, based on the evidence presented, have found the defendant guilty of the crime committed.
The defendant has a heavy burden in the sufficiency of the evidence question.
That’s because the heavy workload is supposed to have been done by the jury in the trial.

Abuse of Discretion Standard – the appeals court says that we’re not going to overturn the trial courts ruling unless there is an abuse of discretion.

Not always exactly an abuse of discretion standard, because often they dig much deeper than what that term generally means.
Limitations on abuse of discretion

Constitutional limitations – for example as in incompetence
Legal duty on the judge to do something – also as in incompetence.

A “de novo” review – there is no difference to the trial court at all. The appeals court reviews it as though the trial court did nothing at all.

Usually when it’s a question of law, then there is a de novo review.

This is because the Supreme Court has no reason to defer to the circuit courts in being the last voice on law, when the SC is the expert on it in the state.


Trial court can make a motion limiting the testimony of a witness.

This is determined on a abuse of discretion standard.

Rulings on the Nature of Testimony

Also held on an abuse of discretion standard, and usually upheld.


1. Good Test: (But-For is a BAD test because it istoo broad):
(But-For Test: “But for D’s voluntary act(s)/omission(s), would the social harm have occurred when it did?”)
A. Serious injury/death was **reasonably foreseeable**
· “natural and probable consequences of actions”
Was the second cause foreseeable?
Only a response to the proximate cause
Does not break chain of causation
Second cause not intervening/indy/supervening
Breaks the chain of causation
Not guilty
Second cause intervening/indy/supervening