The Use of Criminal Evidence at Trial
If your case is coming up to trial, you should know about the different types of criminal evidence that may be introduced. A skilled criminal defense attorney should know how to best attack such evidence, but a well-informed, cooperative defendant can also be a great asset to the attorney during trial prep. Accordingly, what follows are the most frequent types of criminal evidence that are presented in trials.
First, let’s make the distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence; despite television’s oft-heard refrain “there’s *only* circumstantial evidence,” know that you can be convicted of a crime by either type of evidence.
Direct evidence is something that “directly” shows the defendant’s guilt, for example, an eyewitness who saw the defendant committing a crime; circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, may lead to the inference that the defendant committed a crime, for example, a towel with a murder victim’s DNA found at the defendant’s house.
Some specific types of criminal evidence include the following:
- Computer evidence: Also called digital evidence, computer evidence is anything that comes in an electronic, digital form. It can include emails, web browsing history, text messages, photographs and documents on a hard drive, etc. Courts still view this type of evidence with some skepticism as it can easily be tampered with, so there is certainly room for argument from a good criminal defense attorney if computer evidence is presented at your trial.
- Demonstrative evidence: Demonstrative evidence is what attorneys use to frame the scene, time, and occurrence of the crime; it may include things like the length of skidmarks at an accident scene or visual aids that may help the jury or judge better understand the charges against the defendant. The latter are often seen as attempts to create drama and/or emotional responses in the judge and/or jury, and a good criminal defense attorney should know how to respond.
- Documentary evidence: Documentary evidence can include both documents and video evidence. It may be something as banal as a signature on a restaurant receipt or something more advanced and technical like a video surveillance video. Both types of evidence have to be authenticated to be introduced, and your criminal defense attorney should know how to attack them if possible.
- Physical evidence: Physical evidence is something like the bloody towel mentioned above and anything that may physically link a defendant to a crime. Your criminal defense attorney should have contacts with the appropriate experts to attack such evidence from its collection to its analysis.
- Testimony: Testimony by witnesses is often one of the most convincing parts of a prosecution’s case, which is why having a criminal defense attorney experienced in trial law is advised if your case will see the inside of a court room. You need someone experienced in questioning and cross-examining witness, making objections, preserving issues for appeal, and more.