What are the Most Common Evidence Problems?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 February 2020
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Evidence is considered the backbone of many modern legal systems. Judges and juries use the amount and quality of evidence to determine the outcome of legal cases, both criminal and civil. Because of its tremendous importance, there are strong safeguards in place to ensure that evidence introduced in a legal case is sound. There are many common evidence problems that lead important, and even vital, pieces of evidence from ever being heard by the deciding body.

Another major factor that can cause evidence problems is relevance. Generally, most courts require that evidence must have some specific relevance that will help determine the outcome of the case. If a murder suspect has a history of violence toward women, for instance, testimony and evidence regarding that history may be relevant. If the murder suspect was arrested for stealing a school mascot 20 years prior, that would be very unlikely to be relevant and thus probably inadmissible.


Hearsay can be another frequent cause of evidence problems. The basic law of hearsay states that statements made by a person about a case are only admissible if the person is available to cross-examine. Yet hearsay laws are subject to various loopholes and sometimes the discretion of the judge, leading to considerable confusion about what is and is not hearsay. For example, if a statement explains why an action occurs rather than proving that it occurred, it is usually not considered hearsay and may be admissible. Public records, such as marriage or birth certificates, are also admissible even though the clerk who filled out the record may not be a witness.

Evidence problems can also stem from failure to correctly authenticate pieces of evidence. Understandably, most courts have regulations to ensure that evidence is actually what it claims to be. For instance, if the prosecution introduces a threatening letter and says it was written by the defendant to the victim, a handwriting expert or witness must usually verify that the handwriting is, in fact, the defendant's. Although this sounds basic, the laws of authentication are extremely complex, and one simple slip on the part of the legal team can result in significant amounts of evidence being disqualified for failing to meet standards of authentication.

Laws regarding admissible evidence do cause quite a few evidence problems, but they are generally necessary to ensure a fair and legal trial. Unfortunately, there is always the possibility of exploiting these laws, allowing important and telling evidence to go unseen and unheard as a result of technicalities. This can certainly lead juries and judges to incorrect conclusions about the case, resulting in severe miscarriages of justice. Yet in order for courts to have the possibility of reaching true justice, experts argue that objectivity in the courtroom must be fought for and laws governing evidence strictly enforced.


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Post 3

I think the biggest issue with evidence is relevancy as the article said. Irrelevant evidence cannot be submitted to court and it's the judge who decides what is relevant or not.

Post 2

I think that evidence used to be more problematic before DNA testing and other advanced testing methods.

For example, since a hair sample could not be tested for DNA, two strands of hair were usually compared to one another. If they looked the same, then it would be said that they belong to the same person.

In fact there was a murder suspect who was found guilty and executed in the 1970s because his hair strand was found at the place of the crime. Thirty some years later, forensic labs did a DNA test on that hair strand which had been stored since then. The hair strand turned out to be the victim's. So there was actually no evidence that this person had committed the murder.

Thanks to DNA testing, such mistakes don't happen anymore.

Post 1

False evidence or tempering with and destroying evidence are some other problems in legal hearings.

Sometimes evidence is destroyed or harmed accidentally during evidence collection. Some evidence may also be destroyed during the testing process. For example, a DNA sample tested once may not be tested again.

Other times, a party to a legal dispute intentionally tempers with evidence to prevent the court from ruling against that party. But when this is acknowledged, it backfires because courts usually rule in favor of the other party when evidence tempering is suspected.

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