Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Prima facie

Prima facie is a Latin expression meaning "at first sight," used in common law jurisdictions to denote evidence that is sufficient, if not rebutted, to prove a particular proposition or fact. In most legal proceedings, one of the parties has the burden of production, which requires that party to present prima facie evidence of all facts essential to its case. (See also burden of proof.) If that party fails to present prima facie evidence on any required element of its case, its claim may be dismissed without any response by the opposing party. A prima facie case may be insufficient to enable a party to prevail, however, if the opposing party subsequently introduces contradictory evidence or asserts an affirmative defense.

For example, in a criminal prosecution, the Government has the burden of presenting prima facie evidence of each element of the crime charged. In a murder case, this would include evidence that the defendant's act caused the victim's death, and evidence that the defendant acted with malice aforethought. If the prosecution were to fail to introduce such evidence, then its case would fail on grounds of "failure to make out a prima facie case," even without rebuttal by the defendant.

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