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Explained: The difference between a criminal trial and impeachment

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New Delhi, Jan 22: The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will begin in earnest on Tuesday. Senators would hear opening statements on why Trump should not be impeached.

The House of Representatives functions as a prosecutor's office in an impeachment investigation.

Explained: The difference between a criminal trial and impeachment

In a 1974 report, the House Judiciary Committee said that the impeachment was a remedial process, rather than a punitive one. The purposes not personal punishment and impeachment and criminal laws serve fundamentally different purpose the report had also stated.

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Senators have to take an oath and swear that they would be impartial. Senators can however declare their allegiance before the trial and cannot be disqualified for bias.


In a criminal case, there is a restriction on the evidence that is admissible. It limits the use of secondhand information. Such evidentiary rules are not applicable in an impeachment.

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    It is advised that a defendant cannot be convicted unless there is proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There is however no formal standard of proof in an impeachment.

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    The US Constitution says that two-thirds of the Senate is required to convict the President. In criminal trials, the juries must reach a unanimous verdict.

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