What is Court Evidence?

Charity Delich

Court evidence refers to evidence that is presented in court during a hearing or trial. It may be used to support a party’s case or to tear down the opposing party’s case. Most jurisdictions have implemented detailed evidentiary rules that govern the types of evidence that can be submitted in a case. These rules usually specify the circumstances that make evidence admissible or inadmissible during a trial.

Court evidence may include witness testimony.
Court evidence may include witness testimony.

Admissible evidence can be presented to a fact finder during a hearing or trial, while inadmissible evidence cannot be provided to the fact finder. To be admissible, court evidence must usually assist the fact finder in determining the suit’s outcome. Additionally, the evidence cannot be objected to by opposing counsel for reasons such as relevance or hearsay. Evidence that is unfairly prejudicial to one party may also be rendered inadmissible. For example, in a criminal case, a judge may prevent the prosecution from showing graphic murder photographs that might unfairly bias the jury against the defendant.

Evidence collected as part of an investigation must be ruled admissible before it can be presented in court.
Evidence collected as part of an investigation must be ruled admissible before it can be presented in court.

Two broad categories of court evidence commonly introduced are physical and testimonial evidence. Testimonial support usually comes in the form of a plaintiff, a defendant, and witnesses giving oral testimony about the facts at issue. Physical support is typically a material, paper, or other object that is introduced into evidence by an attorney. For example, a prosecutor may introduce a forged check as physical evidence in an identity theft case.

Visual evidence is presented by lawyers, and can include photographs, drawings, and other visual objects.
Visual evidence is presented by lawyers, and can include photographs, drawings, and other visual objects.

Several different types of physical court evidence may be presented at trial, including documentary, real, and demonstrative evidence. Documentary support consists of written documents or other records that are submitted into evidence. It can include paper documents, such as a business contract or a trust agreement, as well as other types of media, like video recordings or emails.

Demonstrative support is typically an actual object that is submitted in a case. For instance, a plaintiff’s lawyer may submit an x-ray in a lawsuit alleging malpractice against a doctor. Real evidence consists of the actual item that the case hinges upon. In a product liability suit relating to flammable pajamas, for instance, a plaintiff’s attorney may introduce the actual pajamas into evidence. Usually, an expert witness offers testimony regarding the object in question.

Circumstantial evidence is a type of indirect court evidence. It infers that a certain event occurred based on a series of facts. For instance, to prove that a defendant committed a murder, a prosecutor may present a murder weapon, fingerprint evidence, and the testimony of a witness who heard a gun shot go off. This may be sufficient to convict the defendant, even if the witness did not actually see the murder being committed.

Murder investigators will often test the suspected murder weapon for clues.
Murder investigators will often test the suspected murder weapon for clues.

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