What are the Different Types of Evidence?

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  • Written By: Kasey James
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 20 May 2020
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There are several types of evidence that may be used in a court setting. Evidence can be direct or circumstantial. Direct evidence is the items in a court case that can be seen or certain types of eyewitness testimony. Circumstantial evidence is usually a series of events or characterization that implies guilt. All the facts that are collected for a court case are tied together to help a judge or jury make a decision to convict or not to convict someone on trial.

Direct evidence can be physical objects or testimony under oath that leads directly to the crime and person who committed it. This type of proof should point to the guilty person and should leave no doubt. It should prove the exact circumstances of the crime.

Physical evidence is one type of direct evidence. This includes the items found by investigators at a crime scene. The physical signs tell the story of how the crime was believed to have happened. Some of the physical signs can be gathered right away. This can include broken glass, weapons, drugs, and other items left behind at the scene.

Other physical evidence taken from a crime needs to be gathered and then examined at a lab. This could include, blood, semen, and hair samples. Even though the item is physical, it has to be sent to a lab to obtain the results of who or where it came from. Once the lab can give investigators a full report on these items, they can often be used to prove guilt in court. DNA is a type of physical evidence that is used in many cases, and it is considered highly reliable, especially for excluding suspects.

Circumstantial evidence is all the actions that can imply guilt of a suspect. A person who is on trial for a criminal case may be asked to reveal what he or she did in the weeks before the crime or the weeks after the crime. The events that occurred during this time could foreshadow that person committing the crime. An example is a person who practiced with a gun the few weeks before their spouse was murdered. There is no direct link, but it could be suggested that the person used the gun to get ready to commit murder.

Another form of circumstantial evidence is witness testimony. People who know the person on trial may talk under oath about his or her character or how he or she would react in specific situations. This type of testimony is to showcase that the person under suspicion has the mental ability to commit the crime. It usually takes a combination of circumstantial and direct evidence to convict someone of a crime.

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Post 6

So you’re arrested, charged, make bail, etc. At the first hearing, you’re given a copy of the criminal complaint. Let’s say the traffic stop is on a young male driver with no license. The driver seems nervous, so the cop decides to check the car and driver. The driver tells the deputy he found a baggie he believed to contain an illegal substance. The deputy removed the baggie from the driver’s pocket. It appeared to be what the driver said it was, so the driver is arrested, the vehicle is towed with no further incident and the driver is taken to jail. End of description. The driver is charged with possession of a controlled substance. The complaint form is typed

and the driver receives a copy in court.

The substance description was crossed out in pen, and above it a different substance is written in pen with the initials of the deputy? There was no mention of what was done with the substance. What is supposed to be done? The process continued with a plea hearing at seven months, an indictment at nine months and the public defender received the discovery by mail at 12 months. There was no meeting or consult with the public defender about the case.

The driver got a call from the public defender and there was a hearing last week, but the DA was no show. Still the driver was offered a plea by the defender and the hearing was rescheduled.

I have watched all this happen to my son. I am not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure it’s not right so far. I'm a disabled veteran and my only income has been 10 percent VA disability, which was recently raised. I’m going to try and find a real lawyer for him.

I have no big hopes. I’m looking for others’ thoughts so far. In the discovery process, I found a second version of the complaint that added details and statements my son had no knowledge of, which changes what happened. My son is 18 and had no prior record or contact with any law enforcement prior to or since then. His mistake was finding something and picking it up and not getting his license. He cooperated and gave no trouble to the deputy. I was called, went there and was told by the sheriff what occurred. Over a year later, we discover these changes were made and a different complaint was submitted to the grand jury that would give a different impression of his character and intentions.

There was another hearing last Wednesday. It was the first time my son has met his public defender in person. My son tried to talk to him, to ask some questions and show different statements we found. He did not want to hear about them. He offered a plea from the DA and the hearing was rescheduled. I need some advice.

Post 4

you can't object for circumstantial evidence. Most evidence is.

Post 3

You forgot to add in computer evidence -- so many trials now are depending on electronic evidence, especially that taken off of people's computers, so much so, in fact, that many places have re-written their evidence submission guides.

Post 2

Is every kind of evidence open to objections? I know that you can make objections about circumstantial evidence or irrelevant evidence, but are some of the really objective kinds, like direct evidence, exempted from objections?

And what does it mean by "evidence under the rules"? I hear that phrase all the time on Law and Order and have never actually figured out what it really means.

Post 1

Can somebody tell me what the Federal rules for evidence collection and storage are? And do they differ from local rules of evidence documentation? I'm trying to learn about evidence tracking for an evidence management course, but I'm having trouble digesting all the rules -- can somebody simplify it for me?

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