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 What Is Criminal Evidence?

Criminal evidence refers to any physical or verbal evidence that is presented for the purpose of proving that a crime was committed. There are many different forms that evidence may take; additionally, evidence may also be introduced by the defendant in order to prove that they are not guilty of committing the crime that they are being accused of.

Additionally, in any criminal trial, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the defendant actually committed the crime in question. It is important to note that it is illegal to attempt to hide any of this evidence from the other side, as well as from the authorities. This is an action that is known as spoliation of evidence.

Although criminal evidence can take many different forms, criminal evidence is generally classified in one of two different forms: verbal, or physical. Some of the most common examples of verbal evidence may include:

  • Confessions that were made by the defendant;
  • Testimony that is offered by witnesses and/or expert witnesses;
  • Text from various documents, such as a search warrant or other files; and
  • Spoken evidence, such as what may be obtained through a wiretap or other similar technology.

Physical evidence, then, is any tangible evidence that can be presented as an exhibit. An example of this would be how in a murder case, the murder weapon may be presented to the court as Exhibit A. Some of the most common examples of physical evidence can include:

  • Weapons or other items that were used to commit the crime;
  • Illegal contraband such as drugs, drug money, and drug paraphernalia;
  • DNA, blood, or other bodily samples;
  • Photographic evidence;
  • Video footage;
  • Demonstrative evidence;
  • Footprints or other types of tracks; and
  • Scientific and forensic evidence.

Additionally, all criminal evidence may be further classified as being either direct or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence provides the prosecution with information that is said to be true “beyond a reasonable doubt.” An example of this would be video footage which clearly shows the defendant injuring the victim.

Alternatively, circumstantial evidence does not prove a theory; rather, this type of evidence only suggests proof in support of the theory. An example of this would be a knife that fits the description of witness testimony, but not necessarily the exact knife that was used to commit the crime.

What Is Criminal Profiling? What Characteristics Are Considered When Creating A Criminal Profile?

Criminal profiling is a process that is used by police authorities, in order to help identify an unknown criminal suspect. These investigators may use a wide range of evidence from related cases in order to create a profile of a possible suspect, largely by identifying the possible characteristics and mindset of the person who may have committed the crime.

Criminal profiling is most common in cases involving repeat offenses of the same type. The suspected person may have committed the crime in a recognizable manner or pattern, which would provide investigators with the clues they need for identifying the suspect. Investigators can gather their information from a wide variety of sources, such as:

  • Crime scene evidence;
  • Forensic evidence; and
  • Common characteristics of criminals who have committed the same type of crime.

Investigators may attempt to “recreate” the suspect by using physical evidence, such as:

  • Footprints;
  • Fingerprints; and/or
  • Other bodily indicators. Additionally, investigators may also consider the unique facts surrounding the crime in order to reconstruct the events which lead up to the crime being committed.

The intention of criminal profiling is to determine specific facts about an unknown suspect. As such, when creating the criminal profile, police investigators may try to determine the suspect’s:

  • Age;
  • Gender;
  • Race;
  • Mental and/or psychological traits;
  • Cultural and/or religious beliefs; and
  • Intelligence quotient, or I.Q.

Police authorities will then use the criminal profile that they have created in order to try and to find a “match” amongst various suspects.

How Do Police Gather Information For Criminal Profiling?

Investigators will generally consider four different stages of the crime in order to gather as much information as possible regarding a potential suspect. These stages of criminal conduct can provide investigators with valuable information which can then lead to identifying the suspect. These four stages are:

  1. Pre-Offense Behavior: This would include any plans or motives that the suspect may have had, prior to committing the crime;
  2. Method: This would refer to the manner in which the crime was actually committed;
  3. Concealment Of Evidence: If the suspect in question concealed and/or disposed of evidence, this would provide clues regarding the suspect’s identity; and
  4. Post-Offense Conduct: A suspect will generally act differently after they have committed a crime.

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Criminal Profiling?

The rules that govern criminal profiling may differ from state to state. Some localities favor the use of criminal profiling because of the advantages that the process can offer to police forces. An example of this would be how the use of criminal profiling techniques frequently saves time and resources, as it can narrow down the range of suspects that are being searched for.

Alternatively, a criminal profile is considered socially unacceptable in other localities. This is why many jurisdictions infrequently employ criminal profiling. Many people feel that criminal profiling is limited, and can lead to misidentification. An example of this would be incarcerating an innocent person based on a faulty criminal profile.

Additionally, many argue that criminal profiling has largely been based on stereotypes, especially regarding a suspect’s:

  • Race;
  • Cultural background; and
  • Religious beliefs.

Many criminal identifications have been challenged in court on the suspicion that the criminal profile was based on harmful stereotypes, as opposed to indisputable facts.

What Criminal Evidence Is Admissible In Court? What Evidence Is Not Admissible In Court?

In order for evidence to be admissible in court, it must be:

  • Logically relevant;
  • Material; and
  • Competent.

For evidence to be considered relevant, it must have a reasonable tendency to help prove or disprove a fact. It does not need to make a fact certain; rather, it must make a fact that is of consequence more or less probable than it would be without this evidence.

Additionally, the evidence must be legally relevant; meaning, the probative value of the evidence must not be substantially outweighed by the dangers of:

  • Unfair prejudice;
  • Confusion of jury;
  • Waste of time; and
  • Misleading the jury.

Most evidence is permitted for use at trial although rules, such as the hearsay evidence rule, prevent certain types of evidence from being admissible at trial. The following types of evidence are not generally permitted against criminal defendants:

  • Out of Court Testimony: The Sixth Amendment is what gives criminal defendants the right to confront their accusers;
  • Character Evidence: Prosecutors may not use evidence of a defendant’s personality when proving that the defendant committed the crime. This would be unless the defendant first raises the issue;
  • Plea Bargaining: Statements that were made during plea bargains cannot be used against the defendant at trial; and
  • Self-Incrimination: Defendants have the right to refuse to take the stand during trial, if the prosecutor’s cross examination could lead the defendant to incriminate themselves.

Do I Need An Attorney For Issues Associated With Criminal Profiling?

If you are involved in a case of incorrect criminal profiling, you will need to consult with an experienced and local criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can protect your legal rights according to your state’s specific criminal laws. Further, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.

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