Two standards that I've heard of are "compelling" evidence, and "reasonable indication." Apparently, they may be used to defend certain actions where the level of proof is less than 50-50 but "non-trivial." How, for example, can evidence be "compelling" while being "less likely than not?"

  • Can you point to some case where "less than 50-50" was deemed good enough?
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 13:42
  • @user6726: I wasn't thinking in terms of "cases," but rather "instances." Two of them were identified by posters below. But the one I had in mind was "defamation," where I believe a defendant don't have to prove truth by preponderance of evidence, but only to a "compelling" or plausible standard. The reason would be that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.
    – Libra
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 13:47
  • What I mean is an actual instance of a legal proceeding (any kind), where the judge implied that "less than 50-50" was actually acceptable. Have you actually found a defamation example that implies such a low standard?
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 14:06
  • @user6726: At all defendants' motions to dismiss, the judge will interpret all facts in favor of the plaintiff, as an answerer pointed out. That makes the burden of proof less than 50% for the plaintiff. I'm less clear about defamation, outside of motions to dismiss. Maybe the answer is that the lower standards apply only to pre-trial proceedings, as discussed in the answers, and not to trials themselves.
    – Libra
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 14:19

3 Answers 3


The standard of proof required to survive a motion to dismiss is very low.

The factual (not legal) assertions of the plaintiff are assumed to be true, and the case is dismissed if the defense shows that even when the plaintiff is given that benefit, the assumed facts don't establish the case.

This standard is somtimes referred to as "sufficiency of the claims".

  • Welcome to the site. An upvote for a helpful answer.
    – Libra
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 9:36

"Probable cause" is a disturbingly subjective and vague standard that is nevertheless central to the criminal justice system: "Probable cause" is the standard that justifies everything from search to arrest to a judge's decision in a preliminary hearing to hold a person for trial.

Black's Law Dictionary explains:

Facts and evidences that lead many to believe that the accused actually committed the crime. A probable cause is not a fail proof evidence as it only provides enough grounds to deem the convicted guilty of the crime, and thus to arrest and put the accused to trial.

  • OK, probable cause is more like "minimum proof" evidence. Is that correct?
    – Libra
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 14:58
  • @TomAu - I don't think it has to do with "proof," since nothing is really proven when a question of "probable cause" is challenged. It's more like a judge agrees that a reasonable person perceiving the same facts and/or circumstances would consider there to be sufficient probability that a person committed a crime to warrant search, seizure, and/or trial. There is a lot of jurisprudence on this question.
    – feetwet
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 13:32

(US only. A lawyer but not your lawyer. Information only, not advice)

"Mere scintilla." possibly "Reasonable belief," depending on circumstances and finder of fact.

If you search for "Proof chart", you'll find a lot of stuff about alcohol proof, but more importantly, diagrams that purport to show the relationships between different standards.

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange! We're always thrilled to have more bona fide lawyers contributing. We encourage you to take the tour to get a foundation in the quirks of SE. Note that this answer would be even better if you embedded, or at least linked to, a "proof chart" you find particularly informative.
    – feetwet
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 19:11
  • I didn't do that because there are about 20 of them, and I don't endorse any particular one as accurate.
    – Frank
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 18:01

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