What is the Substantial Evidence Standard?
Posted on Monday, August 24th, 2020 at 2:40 pm
Are you interested in appealing your conviction? It’s best to talk with an experienced criminal appeals lawyer at Spolin Law, PC, right away. Our experienced attorneys will obtain and review your trial record, look for legal errors to support an appeal, and discuss your options.
During our review, we’ll apply various legal standards to the court record as we look for errors and opportunities to have your case reversed, reduces, or re-tried. One of the standards of review that might be relevant is the substantial evidence standard. It comes into play if there’s a question about whether the jury had enough evidence to convict you.
What Is the Substantial Evidence Standard?
The substantial evidence standard is one of the ways appellate courts review a case. Several standards of review exist at different levels. Courts use these standards to analyze certain legal issues consistently. Standards give judges guidelines for how to measure whether a legal error occurred.
When Do Courts Use the Substantial Evidence Standard?
An appeals court uses the substantial evidence standard when reviewing a factual decision made by a jury, like whether a defendant committed a crime. The appellate judges ask themselves whether there was enough evidence to support the jury’s finding. In other words, was there enough evidence for the jury to reach its conclusion, or did the jury’s verdict stretch beyond what the evidence supported?
What Does Substantial Evidence Mean?
Courts defined substantial evidence to mean there is more than a mere scintilla. Simply pu, there is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to support a conclusion. When an appellate court is deciding whether there was substantial evidence, they consider the whole trial record, including all witness testimony.
The Substantial Evidence Standard Respects the Jury
Different standards of review require varying amounts of regard to the lower courts. For example, the substantial evidence standard typically shows deference to the jury’s decision.
An appellate court assumes a trial jury, which heard the testimony and saw the evidence first hand, was in a better position to decide the verdict than it is. The judges will review the trial record with the verdict in the best possible light.
Appellate Judges Don’t Decide if the Jury Was Right
When appellate judges review a trial record for substantial evidence, they are looking at whether a reasonable judge or jury could have reached the relevant finding based on the facts present at trial. The judges aren’t deciding whether they would have come to the same conclusion. Another judge or jury might have reached a different, yet also reasonable conclusion.
What if the Substantial Evidence Standard Is Not Met?
If an appellate court finds there was not substantial evidence to reasonably support the jury’s decision, then this is a legal error it must correct. An appellate court will reverse a criminal conviction if, after reviewing all of the evidence in the most favorable light to the conviction, it still finds that a reasonable and rational fact-finder could not have found the necessary elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Talk with a Criminal Appeals Lawyer Today
If you believe there was, on the whole, not enough evidence to show you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, talk with a criminal appeals attorney at Spolin Law, PC immediately. We tackle federal and state-level appeals regularly, and have a long history of reversals and sentence reductions . We will file a notice of appeal, obtain a trial transcript, submit an opening brief describing the legal or factual errors that took place, and prepare to fight for your freedom.