What Are the Types of Evidence Used in a Criminal Case?

If you are facing criminal allegations, you need a skilled attorney and a good defense. You are innocent until proven guilty, according to our Constitution. The prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and your lawyer’s job is to poke holes in arguments, sowing that doubt. Even the smallest shred of uncertainty should be sufficient to preserve your innocence and keep you free from criminal sentencing.

Of course, remaining innocent is not a simple matter of your word vs. theirs. You need evidence to support your claims. For example, if you were elsewhere at the time of the crime, it helps to show where you were. Maybe someone misidentified you at the scene, and a different witness will help disprove the accusation.

Evidence is collected through a process called “discovery.” During this time, your attorney will investigate by pouring through documents, questioning people, and so forth.

You were probably aware of most of this already. What you may know are the different types of evidence used in a defense case. In this article, we will broadly explore the kinds of evidence used against defendants in court.

Solid Objects

Any evidence that is a solid, substantial item is considered “real evidence.”

Examples include:

  • Weapons
    Weapons can be obvious, such as a firearm used in the commission of a crime. They could also be objects that are not intended for violence, but they were used to kill or harm someone. Pills, bags used to suffocate, wires used to choke, poisons, and so on can all be real evidence.
  • The Human Body
    Perhaps the prosecution doesn’t have a weapon, but they have evidence that puts you at the scene. Fingerprints, blood, and bodily fluids all count as real evidence.
  • Illegal Items
    If you are arrested for possession of something illegal, the item itself can be real evidence. This applies to drugs, stolen property, unlicensed firearms, and so on.

Defenses Against Real Evidence

Real evidence can seem strong, but it can be disputed. Just because, for instance, your fingerprints are found at the scene, that doesn’t necessarily mean you committed the crime. Maybe a firearm is registered to you, but you didn’t pull the trigger. Your attorney must uncover the story around the real evidence, showing the court how that evidence is misleading.

Records and Documents

Police and prosecutors often follow a paper trail to make their cases. This is known as “documentary evidence.” Documentary evidence can be hard copy papers or electronic.

Examples Include:

  • Medical Records
    If you are accused of a violent crime, prosecutors may use medical records to back up their claim. For instance, they can attempt to show that an injury is consistent with a particular attack.
  • Contracts
    In white-collar crimes, accusers will often use various contracts to make an accusation. They claim that the defendant violated the terms. Maybe they accuse the defendant of using illegal loopholes, making it appear as though the defendant stayed within the law.
  • Transactions
    This is another popular form of documentary evidence used in white-collar allegations. In a money laundering case, for instance, accusers will follow a money trail, building an argument that the defendant was hiding their ill-gotten gains.

Defenses Against Documentary Evidence

Remember, your attorney can also provide their own documentary evidence. Perhaps they have access to medical records that refute the prosecution’s claims. Maybe later contracts changed the conditions of the original agreements.

The narrative is also important. A record of transactions may look bad, but your attorney can explain that there is a misinterpretation of how, when, and why funds were used.

Witnesses

When either side calls someone to testify, this is known as “testimonial evidence.”

Examples Include:

  • Eyewitnesses
    Anyone who saw the alleged crime could be called to testify. This could be a bystander, victim, arresting officer, etc.
  • Expert Witnesses
    Sometimes, a witness was nowhere near the crime scene. Instead, this person has expert insight that can help incriminate the accused. For instance, they may know how to decode complex white-collar crimes, or they could be crime scene analysts who study blood patterns.

Defenses Against Testimonial Evidence

Fortunately, many eyewitnesses are unreliable. They often believe they saw something, only to discover they confused the event with something else. Your attorney’s job is to discredit this witness. They could cleverly catch the witness in a lie, or they could expose a misinterpretation of events.

Even expert witnesses can be refuted. Your attorney may have their own expert who can argue against the initial analysis. As technology advances, we also find more inconsistencies with evidence that was once considered irrefutable. DNA results, for instance, can yield several matches, broadening the list of suspects in a case.

Electronic Communications

Electronic communications could be used against you in court. This is called “digital evidence.”

Examples Include:

  • Text Messages
    Despite being private conversations, texts are often used in an investigation.
  • Emails
    Many criminal cases involve email chains. There have been several high-profile examples where a defendant tries to delete emails before the police can take them.
  • Direct Messages
    Functionally, a DM conversation acts identically to a text message. The major difference is the service being used.
  • Video Chats
    There are ways to record video conversations without someone’s knowledge. A record like this may give prosecutors ammunition against a defendant.

Defenses Against Digital Evidence

Although electronic communication has been a normal part of life for decades, there is still legal vagueness surrounding it. Make sure your attorney thoroughly investigates the methods authorities used to acquire this information. If the police didn’t follow proper channels, evidence may be inadmissible.

Like any other documentary evidence, context matters. Something that appears damning could be completely innocent. Your lawyer can always challenge the validity and interpretation of any written records, even private text conversations.

If you are facing a criminal charge in Virginia, contact our office for help. We can offer you a free, no-risk consultation. Just call (540) 827-4446 or fill out our online contact form.

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