What Is Criminal Evidence?
Criminal evidence is any physical or verbal evidence that is presented for the purpose of proving a crime. Criminal evidence can take many different forms and may also be introduced by the defendant to prove that they are not guilty. In any criminal trial, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the defendant committed the crime.
What Are some Forms of Criminal Evidence?
Criminal evidence may basically come in two different forms, verbal or physical. Examples of verbal evidence may include:
- Confessions made by the defendant
- Testimony offered by witnesses and expert witnesses
- Text of documents such as a search warrant or other files
- Spoken evidence obtained through a wiretap or other similar technology
Physical evidence is any tangible evidence and is usually presented as an exhibit. Examples can include:
- Weapons or other instruments used to commit a crime
- Illegal contraband such as drugs, drug money, and drug paraphernalia
- DNA, blood, or bodily samples
- Photographs or video footage
- Footprints or other types of tracks
All criminal evidence may be further classified into either direct or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence supplies the prosecution with information that is true “beyond a reasonable doubt” (for example, a videotape showing the defendant injuring the victim). Circumstantial evidence does not prove a theory but rather only suggests proof in support of the theory (for example, a knife that fits the description of witness testimony).
What Types of Evidence Are Not Admissible in Court?
Although most evidence is permitted for use at trial, the rules prevent certain type of evidence from being admissable at trial. These rules are even stronger in criminal cases because the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants certain rights. However, most of these rules have special exceptions, and are subject to change from state to state, so check with an attorney before heading to court.
The following types of evidence are not permitted against criminal defendants:
- Out of Court Testimony – The Sixth Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to confront their accusers.
- Character Evidence – Prosecutors cannot use evidence of a defendant’s personality to prove that the defendant committed the crime unless the defendant raises the issue first.
- Plea Bargaining – Statements made during plea bargains cannot be used against the defendant at trial.
- Self-Incrimination – Defendants have the right not to take the stand during trial because the prosecutor’s cross examination could lead the defendant to incriminate him or herself.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with Criminal Evidence?
The presentation of evidence in a criminal case can have powerful effects on the verdict. For example, if evidence was illegally obtained by the police, it cannot be used in court. Thus, it may be necessary to work with a criminal lawyer if you are facing criminal charges. Your attorney can help you review the evidence so that you obtain your full rights under the law.
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Last Modified: 01-28-2014 12:00 PM PST
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