Legal Presumption Law & Legal Definition


A legal presumption is a conclusion based upon a particular set of facts, combined with  established laws, logic or reasoning. It is a rule of law which allowing a court to assume a fact is true until it is rebutted by the greater weiht (preponderance) of the evidence against it.

Examples of legal presumptions, among others, include:

  1. A child born of a husband and wife living together is presumed to be the natural child of the husband.
  2. A person who has disappeared and not been heard from for seven years is presumed to be dead.
  3. An accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

These presumptions may be rebutted by proof such as:

  1. a DNA test conclusively proving the husband is not the father,
  2. the missing person is found alive, and
  3. a verdict based upon the evidence at trial convicts the defendant.

A legal presumption is distinguished from a presumption of fact, which is an argument of a fact from a fact; an inference as to drawn regarding an unknown fact based upon a known fact. This inference may derive from a past history of their connection; assuming the truth or real existence of something despite a lack of direct or positive proof of the fact, but grounded on circumstantial or probable evidence which makes it believable.

For example, in comparing the two concepts, one court has stated that "'Constructive notice' is a presumption of law, making it impossible for one to deny the matter concerning which notice is given, while 'implied notice' is a presumption of fact, relating to what one can learn by reasonable inquiry, and arises from actual notice of circumstances, and not from constructive notice. Charles v. Roxana Petroleum Corporation, C.C.A.Okl., 282 F. 983, 988.

The distinction between a presumption of law and a presumption of fact is defined in Vol. 9, Ency. of Evidence, 882, as follows:

"The distinction usually drawn between these two classes of presumptions is that a presumption of law is an arbitrary rule of law that when a certain fact or facts appear a certain other fact is, for the purposes of the case, deemed to be established, either conclusively or until contrary evidence is introduced; while a presumption of fact is merely a logical inference or conclusion which the trier of the facts is at liberty to draw or refuse to draw."