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Understanding Evidence in a Criminal Trial

Johnson Law Firm Jan. 18, 2022

When proving a defendant’s guilt, the prosecution must present sufficient evidence proving that the defendant had the intent to commit the criminal offense and establish other elements beyond a reasonable doubt. However, there are strict rules that govern the types of evidence that can be introduced in a criminal trial. While certain types of evidence are admissible in a criminal court, others are inadmissible.Man in prison

If you are facing criminal charges in St. Joseph, Missouri, you must speak with a knowledgeable attorney at Johnson Law Firm to determine if you can suppress inadmissible evidence. Our experienced and results-driven criminal defense attorney understands that the key to success in defending clients against criminal charges is knowing when and how to suppress evidence in a criminal trial. We also proudly serve clients in Platte City, Savannah, and surrounding areas in Missouri and Kansas.

Types of Evidence in Criminal Cases

There are various types of evidence that are used by the prosecutor to prove the defendant’s guilt. Criminal courts recognize the following six types of evidence:

  • Real evidence. Any materials or items found at the crime scene and or used by the defendant when committing the alleged criminal offense are “real evidence.” The prosecutor can present the evidence during the criminal trial to prove the defendant’s guilt. Common examples of real evidence include a knife, gun, blood samples, fingerprints, and other items and physical objects.

  • Documentary evidence. Documentary evidence is any evidence introduced during a criminal trial in the form of documents. This type of evidence is commonly used by the prosecution and the opposing party to confirm all or a part of what the party is alleging.

  • Demonstrative evidence. In criminal law, demonstrative evidence is any evidence that serves as a visual aid to the arguments presented in a criminal court. During a criminal trial, the prosecution may use surveillance footage showing the commission of the crime, crime scene photos, and other visual evidence to support the facts the prosecution is trying to prove.

  • Testimonial evidence. As its name implies, testimonial evidence includes testimonies given by competent witnesses under oath. Testimonial evidence can come in written or oral form. Courts view testimonies as the simplest type of evidence in criminal cases.

  • Digital evidence. Any evidence retrieved from electronic sources or devices is “digital evidence.” Common examples of digital evidence in criminal cases include emails, phone calls, text messages, and files retrieved from laptops or computers.

  • Hearsay evidence. Hearsay evidence is an out-of-court statement submitted as proof in a criminal trial. Hearsay evidence is information about an out-of-court statement made by a person other than the witness during under-oath testimony. Generally speaking, hearsay evidence is inadmissible in criminal trials.

When Is Evidence Admissible in a Criminal Trial?

Not all evidence submitted by the parties in a criminal case is admitted at court. To be admissible in a criminal trial the evidence must meet the three requirements:

  1. Relevance. Evidence is considered “relevant” when it has some logical connection to the fact the party is trying to prove or disprove. In other words, evidence meets the requirement of relevance when it makes the argued fact more or less probable than it would be without the piece of evidence.

  2. Material. Evidence meets the threshold of “material” when necessary for determining the outcome of the issue in question.

  3. Competence. Evidence is competent when it has a sufficient level of reliability.

If a party attempts to introduce evidence that does not meet the requirement of relevance, material, or competence, it will not be admissible in a criminal trial.

What Happens If Evidence Is Inadmissible?

If the prosecution introduces evidence that is not relevant, material, and or competent, the defendant’s attorney can have the evidence suppressed. Inadmissible evidence cannot be used during a criminal trial to prove the defendant’s guilt. For this reason, the defendant will need the legal counsel of a skilled criminal defense attorney to determine the admissibility of evidence introduced by the prosecution against them.

Common reasons to make evidence inadmissible in a criminal trial include:

  1. The evidence was not obtained properly

  2. The defendant’s constitutional rights were violated when obtaining the evidence

  3. The presented evidence is not relevant, material, or competent

  4. The prejudicial value of the evidence is greater than its probative value

Our experienced criminal defense attorney can seek to examine weaknesses in the prosecution’s case to prepare a strong defense. Suppressing inadmissible evidence increases the defendant’s chances of securing a favorable outcome and avoiding or reducing the punishment.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

The sooner you retain legal counsel, the better. A skilled attorney can help examine the evidence introduced against you to determine the grounds to suppress the evidence. If the evidence against you is inadmissible, your attorney can prepare a motion to suppress and develop a defense strategy to secure the most favorable outcome possible.

At Johnson Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping clients navigate the criminal justice process. With a law office based in St. Joseph, Missouri, our criminal defense attorney represents clients in surrounding areas in both Missouri and Kansas, including Savannah and Platte City. Get a case review with our attorney to discuss the admissibility of evidence in your criminal case.