“Can an HOA hold a homeowner liable for cutting down trees on HOA property when eye witness proof does not exist and the only evidence is circumstantial? (Note: Three large trees obstructing the view of one homeowner were cut down – this homeowner is the only one benefiting from the removal of these trees and positioned in front of these trees, so he is the one suspected of the crime).”
Short answer: Yes.
Slightly longer answer: In theory, homeowner’s associations (HOAs) are subject to oversight by the courts. however, as a practical matter, it is rarely cost-effective to have recourse to the court system, and the courts in many areas are quite deferential to HOAs. This is not because they believe that HOAs are likely to be correct, but because they do not want to get mired in the minutae of association items–that’s why the government allowed HOAs in the first place, to let someone else decide whether this shade of pink is too dark for the neighborhood.
That having been said, you were probably wondering whether there are laws setting the standard of proof for punitive actions. There probably is, but the standards vary from state to state, and more importantly the mechanism for enforcing those standards is, as noted above, problematic. However, I would still suggest you consult with a local attorney, since many HOAs will follow the standards if they are presented with them in black and white.