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''Prima facie'' (; ) is a Latin expression meaning ''at first sight'' or ''based on first impression''. The literal translation would be 'at first face' or 'at first appearance', from the feminine forms of ''primus'' ('first') and ''facies'' ('face'), both in the
ablative case In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. T ...
. In modern, colloquial and conversational English, a common translation would be "on the face of it". The term ''prima facie'' is used in modern
legal English Legal English is the type of English as used in legal writing. In general, a legal language is a formalized language based on logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, label=none, lit=possessed of reason, ...
(including both
civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
and
criminal law Criminal law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
) to signify that upon initial examination, sufficient corroborating
evidence Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported proposition is true. What role evidence plays and how it is conceived varies from field to field. In epistemology, evidence ...

evidence
appears to exist to support a case. In
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
jurisdictions, a reference to ''prima facie evidence'' denotes evidence that, unless rebutted, would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact. The term is used similarly in academic
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such questio ...

philosophy
. Most legal proceedings, in most
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
s, require a ''prima facie'' case to exist, following which proceedings may then commence to test it, and create a ruling.


Burden of proof

In most legal proceedings, one
party A party is a gathering of people who have been invited by a host A host is a person responsible for guests at an event or for providing hospitality during it. Host may also refer to: Places *Host, Pennsylvania, a village in Berks Cou ...
has a burden of proof, which requires it to present ''prima facie'' evidence for all of the essential facts in its case. If it cannot, its claim may be dismissed without any need for a response by other parties. A ''prima facie'' case might not stand or fall on its own; if an opposing party introduces other evidence or asserts an affirmative defense, it can only be reconciled with a full
trial In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by ...

trial
. Sometimes the introduction of ''prima facie'' evidence is informally called ''making a case'' or ''building a case''. For example, in a trial under
criminal law Criminal law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
, the
prosecution A prosecutor is a legal representative of the prosecution in states with either the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by co ...
has the burden of presenting ''prima facie'' evidence of each element of the crime charged against the
defendant In court proceedings, a defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary fi ...
. In a
murder Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification (jurisprudence), justification or valid excuse (legal), excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought. ("The killing of another person w ...

murder
case, this would include evidence that the victim was in fact dead, that the defendant's act caused the death, and that the defendant acted with
malice aforethought Malice aforethought is the "premeditation" or "predetermination" (with malice) required as an element of some crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in ...
. If no party introduces new evidence, the case stands or falls just by the ''prima facie'' evidence or lack thereof, respectively. ''Prima facie'' evidence does not need to be conclusive or irrefutable: at this stage, evidence rebutting the case is not considered, only whether any party's case has enough merit to take it to a full trial. In
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
jurisdictions such as the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, the prosecution in a criminal trial must disclose all evidence to the defense. This includes the ''prima facie'' evidence. An aim of the doctrine of ''prima facie'' is to prevent litigants from bringing spurious charges which simply waste all other parties' time.


''Res ipsa loquitur''

''Prima facie'' is often confused with ''
res ipsa loquitur ''Res ipsa loquitur'' (Latin: "the thing speaks for itself") is a doctrine in the Anglo-American common law and Roman Dutch law that says in a tort A tort, in common law jurisdiction, is a civil wrong (other than breach of contract) that c ...

res ipsa loquitur
'' ('the thing speaks for itself', or literally 'the thing itself speaks'), the common law doctrine that when the facts make it self-evident that negligence or other responsibility lies with a party, it is not necessary to provide extraneous details, since any reasonable person would immediately find the facts of the case. The difference between the two is that ''prima facie'' is a term meaning there is enough evidence for there to be a case to answer, while ''Res ipsa loquitur'' means that the facts are so obvious a party does not need to explain any more. For example: "There is a ''prima facie'' case that the defendant is liable. They controlled the pump. The pump was left on and flooded the
plaintiff A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil aff ...
's house. The plaintiff was away and had left the house in the control of the defendant. ''Res ipsa loquitur''." In Canadian tort law, this doctrine has been subsumed by general negligence law.


Use in academic philosophy

The phrase is also used in academic
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such questio ...

philosophy
. Among its most notable uses is in the theory of
ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, ...

ethics
first proposed by
W. D. Ross Sir William David Ross (15 April 1877 – 5 May 1971), known as David Ross but usually cited as W. D. Ross, was a Scottish philosopher who is known for his work in ethics. His best-known work is The Right and the Good (1930), and he is pe ...
in his book ''
The Right and the Good The Right and the Good is a 1930 book by the Scottish philosopher David Ross. In it, Ross develops a deontological pluralism based on prima facie duties. Ross defends a Moral realism, realist position about morality and an Ethical intuitionism, ...
'', often called the ''Ethic of Prima Facie Duties'', as well as in
epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the Outline of philosophy, branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic Justification (epistemology), justification, the Reason, rationality o ...

epistemology
, as used, for example, by
Robert Audi Robert N. Audi (born November 1941) is an American philosopher American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States ** Americans, citizens and nationals of the U ...
. It is generally used in reference to an obligation. "I have a ''prima facie'' obligation to keep my promise and meet my friend" means that I am under an obligation, but this may yield to a more pressing duty. A more modern usage prefers the title '' pro tanto obligation'': an obligation that may be later overruled by another more pressing one; it exists only ''
pro tempore ''Pro tempore'' (), abbreviated ''pro tem'' or ''p.t.'', is a Latin phrase __NOTOC__ This is a list of Wikipedia articles of Latin phrases and their translation into English. To view all phrases on a single, lengthy document, see: * List of La ...
''.


Other uses and references

The phrase ''prima facie'' is sometimes misspelled ' in the mistaken belief that ' is the actual Latin word; however, ''faciē'' is in fact the
ablative case In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. T ...
of ''faciēs'', a fifth declension Latin noun. In , ''prima facie'' is used to describe the mandates or planks of an affirmative case, or, in some rare cases, a negative
counterplan A counterplan is a component of debate theory commonly employed in the activity of parliamentary and policy debate. While some conceptions of debate theory require the negative position in a debate to defend the status quo against an affirmative ...
. When the negative team appeals to ''prima facie'', it appeals to the fact that the affirmative team cannot add or amend anything in its plan after being stated in the first affirmative constructive. A common usage of the phrase is the concept of a "''prima facie'' speed limit", which has been used in
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
. A ''prima facie'' speed limit is a default speed limit that applies when no other specific speed limit is posted, and may be exceeded by a driver. However, if the driver is detected, and cited by police for exceeding the limit, the onus of proof is on the driver, to show that the speed at which the driver was travelling was safe under the circumstances. In most jurisdictions, this type of speed limit has been replaced by absolute speed limits.


See also

*
Defeasible reasoning In philosophical logicPhilosophical logic refers to those areas of philosophy in which recognized methods of logic have Classical logic, traditionally been used to solve or advance the discussion of philosophical problems. Among these, Sybil Wolfra ...
*
List of Latin phrases __NOTOC__ This is a list of Wikipedia articles of Latin phrases and their translation into English. To view all phrases on a single, lengthy document, see: * List of Latin phrases (full) This article lists direct English translations of common La ...
*
Probable cause In United States criminal law Responsibility for criminal law and criminal justice in the United States is shared between the State governments of the United States, states and the Federal government of the United States, federal government. So ...
*
Proximate cause In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its b ...
* Pseudologia fantastica


References


Further reading

* * {{Authority control Common law Deontological ethics Latin legal terminology Latin logical phrases Latin philosophical phrases Legal reasoning