The Latin term prima facie means “at first glance,” or “at first appearance,” and it is generally used to describe how a situation appears on initial observation. In the legal system, prima facie is commonly used to refer to either a piece of evidence which is presumed to be true when first viewed, or a legal claim in which enough evidence is presented to support the validity of the claim. To explore this concept, consider the following prima facie definition.
Definition of Prima Facie
- At first appearance, before investigation
- Self-evident, plain or clear, obvious
First Century Latin
History of the Term Prima Facie
This Latin term literally translates as “at first face,” or “at first appearance.” Modern English tends to use the term to mean “on the face of it,” in conversational English, academic philosophy, and the law. Prima facie implies that evidence exists which, unless disproven, is sufficient to prove a certain fact or circumstance.
Example of use in academic philosophy:
Anthropologists agreed that a relationship exists between race and culture. Therefore, cultural diversity within a given geographical area may be seen as prima facie evidence that the inhabitants were racially diverse.
Use of Prima Facie in the Legal System
In the U.S. legal system, there must be a prima facie case in order to commence legal proceedings, meaning that there must be enough evidence at first glance to assume that the plaintiff has a valid legal claim. This does not mean there must be sufficient evidence to prove the claim when filing, as determining the presence and truth of such evidence is the purpose of the trial system.
Prima Facie in a Civil Lawsuit
When someone files a civil lawsuit, he must present facts or circumstances which tend to support each element of his claim. If he fails to do so, he runs the risk of having the case dismissed, or receiving an adverse directed verdict. This means that the defendant may ask the judge to order a summary judgment or directed verdict because there is no valid legal claim. This may be done before the defendant even has to present evidence to disprove the plaintiff’s claim, as the burden of proving the case rests on the shoulders of the plaintiff.
Prima Facie in a Criminal Case
Before an individual can be tried on criminal charges, a preliminary hearing must be held so that the court can determine whether there is sufficient cause to continue to trial. During this prima facie stage of the legal process, it is only necessary to present some credible evidence of each element of the case. By contrast, successfully prosecuting the defendant during trial requires that he is guilty of each element of the crime be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
When an individual is being tried on criminal charges, the prosecutor has the burden of presenting a prima facie case, proving each and every element of the crime.
Angelo has been charged with burglary of Stephanie’s home. At trial, the prosecutor must present evidence that Angelo entered into the home without authorization, which is just one element of the crime of burglary. The prosecutor presents testimony that Angelo and Stephanie had an argument at work, during which Angelo flung some vague threats. A few weeks following the burglary, Angelo was found to possess one of the items stolen from Stephanie’s home.
While Angelo having possession of an item belonging to Stephanie is suspicious, and may be evidence of some other crime, such as possession of stolen property, it is not in itself evidence of a burglary. There were no witnesses, and no evidence that Angelo was ever in Stephanie’s home. The defendant could request the charge of burglary be dismissed, or that the judge order a directed verdict, based on the prosecution’s failure to present a prima facie case for burglary, without ever having to present any evidence of his own.
If, on the other hand, the prosecution presents any evidence that Angelo had been in Stephanie’s home, such as a fingerprint, or an eyewitness account, the requirement of presenting a prima facie case has been met. This does not necessarily prove definitively that Angelo is guilty, but the defendant would need to present evidence that either disproves, or causes doubt about, Angelo’s guilt.
Evidence Accepted as Prima Facie
Evidence that may be accepted as prima facie is any evidence which, if accepted at face value, supports the case, or a necessary element of the case.
Natalie and her husband, Mike, have a violent argument in which she accuses him of cheating on her. The fight spills out the front door onto the lawn, where a neighbor video records it with his smartphone. While Mike got into his car and drove away after a few minutes, he was discovered dead in the couple’s home a week later. The medical examiner determined that Mike’s death had been caused by poison, and Natalie was subsequently arrested and charged with first degree murder.
In order to gain a verdict of first degree murder, as opposed to other types of murder, there must have been intent to commit murder. During the trial, the prosecutor presents the neighbor’s video recording on which Natalie can clearly be seen and heard threatening to kill Mike. This alone is not proof that Natalie killed Mike, but it does serve to prove her intent. If the prosecution is successful in proving the other elements of murder, the video recording may serve as prima facie evidence that Natalie intended to kill her husband.
The laws in each jurisdiction also define certain other types of evidence that may be taken at face value, or which are considered as prima facie evidence in some cases. For example, an official copy of a defendant’s criminal record may serve as prima facie evidence of his character as a habitual criminal. In a civil case, a certified copy of a real property deed may serve as prima facie evidence of a party’s ownership of the property.
Consideration of Prima Facie Evidence
When a court accepts prima facie evidence, it becomes the responsibility of the opposing party to disprove that evidence if he does not want it taken at face value. In the event a party presents sufficient evidence to refute such prima facie evidence, the judge or jury may still consider the prima facie evidence, but it must be considered with, and weighed against, all other evidence.
In most cases, proof than an individual mailed a letter is considered prima facie evidence that the letter was delivered to the person to whom it was addressed. If the individual to whom the letter was addressed wants to refute that fact, claiming that he never received the letter, he must present some proof or convincing argument.
Prima Facie vs. Res Ipsa Loquitur
The term prima facie is sometimes confused with the term res ipsa loquitur, which means “the thing speaks for itself.” Res ipsa loquitur may be used to refer to a situation in which the facts make it self-evident that the negligence, liability, or responsibility for damages lies with a party, based on the very nature of the accident or injury.
The difference between these two terms is that prima facie means there is enough evidence to file or pursue a case. Res ipsa loquitur means that the facts are so obvious that there is no need for further explanation.
Edward leaves his rented home for a few days, but forgets to turn off the hose filling his pool. The water flows over, taking out part of the landscaping on its way to the street. The landlord has filed a civil lawsuit seeking reimbursement for repairs to the landscape, as well as for the fine imposed by the city.
In this case, res ipsa loquitur means that it is obvious the damages were caused by the defendant’s negligent act. The home was placed in his care as a result of the lease, and his negligence caused the damages. There is no need for the landlord to otherwise prove liability, only the amount of damages.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Civil Lawsuit – A lawsuit brought about in court when one person claims to have suffered a loss due to the actions of another person.
- Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or who has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
- Directed Verdict – An order for a jury to return a specific verdict because there is no legally sufficient evidence to support a different conclusion.
- Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
- Plaintiff – A person who brings a legal action against another person or entity, such as in a civil lawsuit, or criminal proceedings.
- Prosecutor – A person, especially a public official, who institutes legal proceedings against someone.
- Summary Judgment – A final decision on the case, handed down by the judge on the basis of the statements and evidence presented, without a full trial.
For example, in a case of burglary, the prosecution must present evidence that the defendant entered the premises without authorization and with the intention of committing burglary, and that the defendant stole items from the premises.How do you explain prima facie? ›
A prima facie case is the establishment of a legally required rebuttable presumption. A prima facie case is a cause of action or defense that is sufficiently established by a party's evidence to justify a verdict in his or her favor, provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party.What are the three elements of a prima facie case? ›
To establish a prima facie case of discrimination based on disparate treatment a plaintiff must show that he (1) is a member of a protected class, (2) suffered an adverse employment action, (3) met his employer's legitimate expectations at the time of the adverse employment action, and (4) was treated differently from ...What are the four elements of a prima facie case? ›
- the existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff.
- defendant's breach of that duty.
- plaintiff's sufferance of an injury.
- proof that defendant's breach caused the injury (typically defined through proximate cause)
A Latin term meaning "at first sight" or "at first look." This refers to the standard of proof under which the party with the burden of proof need only present enough evidence to create a rebuttable presumption that the matter asserted is true.Why is prima facie important? ›
Prima facie is Latin for "on the face of it" or "at first sight." It is used for a belief that is accepted as correct until proven otherwise. This is often important because it creates an assumption that will be treated as fact unless specifically rebutted.How do you say prima facie case? ›
How to Pronounce Prima Facie - YouTubeWhat is needed to prove a prima facie case? ›
In order to establish a prima facie case, a prosecutor need only offer credible evidence in support of each element of a crime. By contrast, a prosecutor must prove defendant's guilt as to each element beyond a reasonable doubt to win a conviction.Can I work with a prima facie? ›
The USCIS will issue a prima facie determination of the abuse and determine the applicant is eligible for certain benefits. This may take six months or more to occur. However, once the applicant is prima facie eligible, they may apply for work authorization.
National Theatre Live will be broadcasting Prima Facie from the Harold Pinter Theatre to cinemas from 21st July 2022. We can't wait!How do you establish prima facie negligence? ›
- The defendant (the negligent person) owed a legal duty to the plaintiff (the injured person).
- The defendant breached that duty.
- The plaintiff suffered some kind of injury because of the defendant's negligence.
- There is proof that the defendant's negligence resulted in the injury.
Possession is prima facie evidence of title or ownership.What is considered insufficient evidence? ›
Insufficient evidence is the evidence which fails to meet the burden of proof and is inadequate to prove a fact.What Prima means? ›
Definition of prima
(Entry 1 of 3) : first, leading.
starring, stellar, leading, star.
بظاہر ۔ پہلی ہی نظر میں ۔ واضح ۔What is prima facie values? ›
Prima facie is a Latin term that is commonly understood to mean “on the first appearance” or “based on the first impression.” According to Ross, a prima facie duty is a duty that is binding or obligatory, other things being equal.What is a case caption example? ›
Case Caption means the official title of the case. For example, Commonwealth v. Smith, Jones v. Jones, or Impounded Plaintiff v. Jones.Is prima facie based on a true story? ›
Tessa is not based on a real person but is an amalgam of all those people that Miller saw walk through the doors of her rooms, and the stories she heard them tell day after day.
A Latin term meaning "at first sight" or "at first look." This refers to the standard of proof under which the party with the burden of proof need only present enough evidence to create a rebuttable presumption that the matter asserted is true. A prima facie standard of proof is relatively low.How long is prima facie? ›
Throughout this 100-minute piece, even in its weaker moments, Comer is absolutely riveting. She uses her shape-shifting talents to great effect, sketching in numerous other characters – from her posh colleagues to her abrasive mum and combative brother. She also gives Tessa a vivid emotional journey.What is prima facie case in temporary injunction? ›
Prima facie case means the plaintiff must show the existence of a legal right in him to continue in possession. While considering an application for injunction, it is well-settled, the courts would pass an order thereupon having regard to: (i) Prima facie (ii)Balance of convenience (iii) Irreparable injury.What is the meaning of ex facie? ›
considered on the basis of its face; apparently. The contract was ex facie satisfactory.What comes after prima facie determination? ›
Once USCIS makes a prima facie determination that there is abuse, USCIS is closer to granting the I-360. Once the I-360 is granted, the petitioner does not obtain legal status in the United States. It means that the VAWA petitioner can apply for adjustment when they are eligible to do so.How do you determine a prima facie case? ›
In order to establish a prima facie case, a prosecutor need only offer credible evidence in support of each element of a crime. By contrast, a prosecutor must prove defendant's guilt as to each element beyond a reasonable doubt to win a conviction.How do you make a prima facie case? ›
In Latin, prima facie means at first glance. When a litigant is in court, he or she can make a prima facie case by submitting evidence that would be enough to support his or her allegations if they were believed by the jury or judge.What is prima facie case of discrimination? ›
In order to establish a prima facie case in an employment setting, a plaintiff must have enough evidence to show that they were discriminated against by their employer for a prohibited reason. If the employer is not able to show evidence that contradicts it, the employee plaintiff will likely win.Is prima facie a standard of proof? ›
A Latin term meaning "at first sight" or "at first look." This refers to the standard of proof under which the party with the burden of proof need only present enough evidence to create a rebuttable presumption that the matter asserted is true. A prima facie standard of proof is relatively low.What two basic elements must be established for the government to prove the prima facie case in a criminal case? ›
Investigations usually then continue until evidence of guilt has been established beyond a reasonable doubt. Before utilizing a suspect's confession against him or her in a criminal case, the prosecutor must establish two facts: (1) that a crime was in fact committed and (2) the suspect's connection to the crime.
The USCIS will issue a prima facie determination of the abuse and determine the applicant is eligible for certain benefits. This may take six months or more to occur. However, once the applicant is prima facie eligible, they may apply for work authorization.What is a prima facie duty quizlet? ›
A Prima Facie Duty is. A moral reasons to do or abstain from something ; more reason that can be outweighed by other normal reasons; a moral reason that if not outweighed, generated a moral requirement.Which of the following accurately describes Ross prima facie duties? ›
Which of the following accurately describes Ross' prima facie duties? intuitively compelling moral demands that are binding unless they conflict with equal or stronger moral claims.Who proposed the prima facie and actual duties? ›
Ross's introduction of a prima facie duty makes for complicated moral decision making. One way to further clarify the structure of Ross's view is to examine what he says about what he calls duty proper or our actual duty (RG 41).What benefits can I get with a prima facie? ›
First of all, it is important to know that there are certain public benefits and services that are available to ALL people, regardless of their immigration status, including: Crisis counseling and intervention programs. Services and assistance relating to child protection. Adult protective services.Which of the following is considered as the prima facie evidence of ownership? ›
Possession is prima facie evidence of title or ownership.What do you need to prove a disparate treatment? ›
To prove disparate treatment, the employee (plaintiff) must first present a “prima facie” case, meaning that he must present evidence that discrimination has occurred. This evidence can be either direct evidence or indirect (circumstantial) evidence.What are the 4 elements of unfair discrimination? ›
- Compulsory discrimination by law;
- Discrimination based on affirmative action;
- Discrimination based on inherent requirements of a particular job;
- Discrimination based on productivity.
Discrimination Claims: A Plaintiff's Burden of Proof
In employment discrimination cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish that s/he was the victim of unlawful discrimination.