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Evidence in Criminal Cases

Posted in Criminal Defense on January 11, 2021

If you or somebody you care about has been arrested and is facing criminal charges, you will undoubtedly be looking for answers. This can be an incredibly confusing and scary experience, and the number one thing that you can do is secure a skilled criminal defense attorney to help. Your case will revolve around evidence, as this is what prosecutors need to prove guilt and convict a person. An attorney will understand this and work to obtain and analyze any evidence being used against you as well as evidence that can be used to exonerate you. Here, we want to discuss the role of evidence in criminal cases.

What is criminal evidence?

Criminal evidence can come in various forms. This can include physical or verbal evidence presented for the purposes of proving that a crime occurred or that the defendant is not guilty. It is illegal to hide any evidence that can be used in a criminal case from the other side (this is referred to as the spoilation of evidence).

Evidence is crucial because, in a criminal trial, the prosecution bears the burden of proving that the defendant committed the crime.

Types of evidence in criminal cases

There are various forms of evidence that can be used in a criminal case. Typically, this comes in two forms – physical and verbal. Some of the most common types of physical evidence used in a criminal case include the following:

  • Weapons or any other instrument used to commit the crime
  • DNA, bodily fluids, or blood
  • Video footage or photographs
  • Footprints or other types of tracks
  • Contraband such as drug money, drug paraphernalia, or drugs
  • Forensic or scientific evidence

Additionally, there are various types of verbal evidence that could be used in a criminal case, including the following:

  • Any confessions made by the defendant
  • Testimony offered by witnesses to the crime
  • Testimony offered by expert witnesses secured by either side
  • Texts of various documents involved in the case
  • Verbal evidence obtained through wiretaps or another type of technology

All criminal evidence can also be classified as either direct evidence or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is evidence that supplies prosecutors with information that is true “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, circumstantial evidence is not necessarily true beyond a reasonable doubt, but rather suggests proof that could support a theory of guilt.

What evidence is not admissible in court?

Most evidence is permitted for use at trial, but there are various rules that could prevent some types of evidence from being admissible in court. The rules for admissibility of evidence are stricter in criminal cases because the US Constitution guarantees criminal defendants certain rights. In general, the following types of evidence are not permitted to be used against criminal defendants:

  • Plea bargaining. Statements that are made during the plea bargaining process cannot be used against the defendant at trial.
  • Self-incrimination. Any criminal defendant has the right not to take the stand during their trial because a prosecutor’s examination could lead to the defendant incriminating themselves.
  • Character evidence. Prosecutors cannot use evidence about the defendant’s character or personality to prove that they committed a crime (unless the defendant raises the issue first).