case of ex-post facto laws

Purposes of Ex Post Facto Laws

Ex Post Facto laws or after the fact laws are laws that criminally punish actions and conduct that was lawful when committed. Ex-post facto laws explain the aspect of the essential maxim nulla poena sine lege, which means there cannot be punishment with the absence of law. In the case of ex-post facto laws, the fundamental maxim implies there cannot be punishment with the absence of preexisting law. Therefore, ex-post facto laws facilitate punishment for actions that were not covered by the law when the actions took place. The laws also ensure that the scope covered by the law is broad enough to cover and regulate all actions.

Importance and Limitation of the Burden of Proof and Reasonable Doubt

Proof that is beyond reasonable doubt is the standard or level of proof of evidence that should be met to authenticate a criminal verdict in most adversarial legal structures (Brody, Acker, & Ogan, 2011). The liability of proof is normally on the prosecutor who is required to provide evidence that is beyond sensible doubt that the defendant is guilty. The significance of the burden of proof and sensible doubt is that it eliminates any doubt about the defendant’s criminal actions. However, it may be a limitation in the criminal justice system since it creates loopholes in the criminal justice system. The reason for this is that lack of tangible evidence beyond doubt may result to the dismissal of a case where the defendant is guilty. It also complicates court cases for both the prosecutor and the respondent.

Reasonable Doubt in Victor v. Nebraska

In the consolidated appeals of two petitioners criminal defendants, evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt was explained as the presence of moral certainty, substantiality, strong probabilities, and grave doubts in the case. The US Supreme Court established that the jury guidelines on reasonable doubt did not encroach upon the Due Process Clause and confirmed the defendants’ conviction.

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Principles Discussed by the US Supreme Court in Chicago v. Morales

In the case of Chicago v. Morales, the US Supreme Court held that a law cannot be so unclear and ambiguous that an individual of normal intellect cannot figure out what is illegal and what is legal activity. Under the city of Chicago law, loitering was a crime. Therefore, if a police officer could identify a gang member in the company of fellow gang members loitering in a public place and order them to disperse. Disobedience of such order could lead to a violation of the ordinance. The US Supreme Court ruled that such ordinance dishonored due process of the law since it is impermissibly unclear on its face and an uninformed restriction on personal liberties. The issue was whether the ordinance was unconstitutionally ambiguous, either as applied or on its face, and abuse of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


Brody, D., Acker, J., & Ogan, W. (2011). Criminal Law. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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