In a criminal proceeding, prosecutors and defendants have the right to provide evidence to support their cases. The state bears the responsibility of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. On the other hand, the defendant can provide evidence that challenges the state’s case.
Each party should be provided with the opportunity to assess the other party’s evidence before the court hearing. They can even raise an objection to the introduction of specific evidence before or during trial.
In criminal cases, defendants can ask the court to exclude any kind of evidence that the state might obtain by breaching the defendant’s constitutional rights. The Federal Rules of Evidence oversee the admission of evidence in the federal court system. Keep in mind that each state has its own rule regarding the evidence that one can provide in court. These rules are generally similar to the federal rules.
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Types Of Evidence
When it comes to evidence, it can generally be divided into four distinct categories:
Any object directly involved in a case that can be used as an evidence is known as real evidence. This could be anything ranging from the murder weapon like a hammer, knife or a gun, to something used to break into a house, like a crowbar. On the contrary, demonstrative evidence is more of an illustration of evidence. For example, a map of the crime scene is counted as demonstrative evidence. Documentary evidence is somewhat like real evidence, but includes letters, contracts, newspapers or anything that contains human language. Lastly, testimonial, or anecdotal evidence, is in the form of a verbal record or written documentation from victims, suspects and witnesses involved in the case.
Rules Of Admissible Evidence
Each of the types of evidence mentioned earlier are obliged to follow the rules of admissibility. The purpose of these rules is to make sure that anything presented in the court as evidence meets three criteria:
Relevant evidence confirms or refutes a particular fact associated with a crime. However, it does not necessarily prove anyone’s guilt or innocence. In simple words, it is a broad term that defines any piece of evidence related to the case. The relevant evidence could be a blood stained tool, or even the person who sold that tool to the suspect. On the other hand, a toddler’s testimony stating a broken house contract would be seen as irrelevant and thus, inadmissible because children are too young to understand cases such as these.
On the other hand, it is important for material evidence, to prove an essential fact of the case. For instance, if a lawyer tries to provide evidence that the curtains in a room where a murder has taken place were blue, the judge might deem such evidence as immaterial. This is because while room itself may be relevant to the case, the colour of the curtains does not have anything to do with the murder.
Lastly, competent evidence is any object or testimony that is proven to be reliable. For example, matching fingerprints, DNA test results, or an expert on footwear impressions. However, the opinion of an expert who is not generally accepted in his field, is neither competent nor admissible.
What Is Admissible Evidence?
Any document, testimony, or tangible evidence that can be used in a court of law is counted as an admissible evidence. The purpose of providing evidence to the judge or jury is to prove a particular aspect or element in a case.
- Criminal Law: In criminal proceedings, evidence is used to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a logical limit of doubt.
- Civil Law: In civil law, any aspect of a case is weighed by the standard of prevalence of the evidence, which is a lower standard than beyond a logical limit of doubt.
Nevertheless, before any evidence can even be used in a criminal case, it needs to be considered “admissible”. Several factors play a part when it comes to whether evidence is admissible or not. In evidence provided for criminal proceedings, various different items and statements are often removed because they are considered to be inadmissible.
What Are Some Elements That Determine If Evidence Is Admissible?
Typically, any evidence that is irrelevant is termed as inadmissible while all relevant evidence is admissible. There are two fundamental factors that are considered when determining whether or not evidence is admissible. These are:
- Relevant – This means that the evidence must approve or refute a substantial fact in criminal proceedings. If the evidence does not match with a particular fact, it is thought of as irrelevant and is thus termed as inadmissible.
- Reliable – As far as reliability is concerned, it points to the credibility of a source that is being used as proof. In most cases this usually pertains to witness testimony.
What Are Some Elements That Determine If Evidence Is Inadmissible?
When talking about evidence inadmissibility, despite the fact that there are rules of evidence that are driven by public policy, it is important to note that those same rules typically have exceptions. Moreover, those exceptions can then further have exceptions. Generally, evidence inadmissibility will most probably depend upon the following, if the evidence is:
- Unfairly Prejudicial – Any evidence that sparks resentment from the jury and does not add to any given material information is usually disregarded. For instance, a picture that shows children around a victim’s body is typically termed as being unfairly prejudicial.
- Wastes Time – In trials, especially criminal proceedings, time is of essence. JMoreover, the jury is experienced enough to not have to hear from fifteen different character witnesses in order to find out if the defendant is an honest person or not .
- Misleading – If any evidence diverts the jury’s attention from the actual case, it is thought to be misleading and is disregarded. For instance, the defendant’s sexuality in a child molestation case is misleading because the matter at hand is whether or not the defendant sexually assaulted a minor. The gender of the minor is also irrelevant.
- Hearsay – Any testimony providing evidence for the case, but made outside of the court is generally disregarded. If one witness states that the other claimed the defendant hit the victim with a knife, and the prosecutor wants to use this in order to prove that the accused actually did stab the victim, that testimony is taken as a hearsay. However, the hearsay rule has more than forty various exceptions like the dying declaration exception.
- Character – Any evidence proving that the defendant acted differently than a particular personality trait he/she might have is disregarded. However, it is accepted if this character evidence is introduced during the initial stages of the trial by the defendant.
- Expert Testimony – This is a testimony that is only given by experts. In this case, layman witnesses are disregarded.
- Privileges – If evidence comes from a privileged source of information, it is disregarded. The most essential privileges lie with the attorneys and clients, as well as the right against self-incrimination.
What If Evidence Is Considered Inadmissible?
If any evidence is deemed inadmissible, it means that it is not suitable to be used as evidence against the defendant in court during a trial. For example a statement given by a witness can be labelled as irrelevant if it does not prove or refute any facts in the case. In such a situation, the statement can’t be recorded as evidence and will also not be used against the defendant during criminal proceedings.
Therefore, ensuring that evidence is carefully gone through, reviewed and analyzed before a trial is highly crucial. This typically calls for the assistance of a skilled criminal attorney, who has complete command over the specific evidence rules required for their jurisdiction.
So as to convict a defendant of wrongdoing, a prosecutor must provide the jury with enough proof to demonstrate the entirety of the components of the offense past a sensible limit of doubt. A prosecutor cannot just present anything they need to the jury. Nevertheless, there are certain rules and regulations that oversee what kinds of proof are acceptable and what kinds are most certainly not. So as to keep evidence out, a defense lawyer must have the option to object to its confirmation in court, regardless of whether it is in a pretrial hearing or in court during preliminary proceedings. Objecting to a particular evidence or point raised in court is not something that always comes naturally. However, with experience, an attorney learns how to effectively object to evidence.
Realizing when and how to protest forbidden proof is fundamental to effectively protect someone against criminal accusations. Anyone who has been accused ought to guarantee that their lawyer has a vast experience in this kind of a criminal preliminary. Federal and state prosecutors always try to get anything they can to be deemed as evidence regardless of whether or not it is admissible. It is important that your lawyer knows how to keep evidence out when necessary to make sure you are not wrongfully convicted based on unreliable evidence.