Understanding the Law:
Using and Obtaining Evidence

Evidence may be one of the most important things brought into a trial. It can either put someone in prison for the rest of his or her lives, or it can free someone from such a fate. That is why the rules must be followed in obtaining evidence and using evidence during trial proceedings. In the judicial system there are many rules to obtaining evidence and using evidence. All evidence found may not be used during a trial, especially if it was obtained illegally. There are two types of evidence, direct evidence and circumstantial. Circumstantial evidence is more common because it's indirect and is used to prove facts by implication or inference. There is not much to direct evidence because it's pretty self-explanatory and only includes either witness testimony or the confession of the criminal. There is a bit more to circumstantial evidence and we will talk about that.

Circumstantial Evidence
Everyone has seen law shows on TV were the defense yells "Your honor, the evidence against their client is purely circumstantial." What's ironic is that both types of evidence can support a verdict of guilty. Which makes sense from policy perspective since most crimes are never committed in plain view, and even less are criminals ever caught in the middle of doing a crime. Circumstantial evidence works in the same way this story depicts it, and law professors love this example of circumstantial evidence.

A mother walks into her kitchen and notices that her freshly baked blueberry pie is missing. Shortly thereafter she sees her young son, whose face and hands are covered with blueberry stains, and who is complaining of a stomach ache. When asked what happened to the pie, the child claims ignorance as to its disappearance.

The evidence that the child stole the pie is purely circumstantial because nobody actually saw the child take the pie, and he didn't admit to taking the pie either. However, the evidence is very persuasive because the child's mouth and hands are covered with blueberry stains, so even though nobody actually saw him take the pie and eat it, there's a pretty good chance that he is the culprit because of the evidence. Such evidence can be equally persuasive in a court of law.

Circumstantial evidence is extremely important as a tool for building a case. Any given item of evidence may have alternative meanings. For example, when you leave a building, and there are puddles outside on the ground, you may assume that is has rained recently. However, there may be another reason for the puddles to be on the ground. Maybe a fire truck extinguished a fire, or a hydrant may have burst. So how evidence is used is very important also. In a jury trial, the judge will instruct the jury that no greater weight should be applied to direct evidence than to circumstantial evidence. Sometime circumstantial evidence is all there is.

Tangible Evidence
Evidence can be obtained from anything and anyone. If there is a traffic accident, evidence may be obtained from police officers, eyewitnesses. Tangible evidence from the accident may include the accident debris, the road, and the cars. Lets say the police officer at the accident believes the driver that caused it had been drinking. As the injured persons are taken away in ambulances there is more evidence being developed. The admitting clerk, nurses and doctors will all have statements as to the condition of the people in the accident. Blood samples taken, other medical test given, and all medical reports can all provide valuable information. Evidence can be created from other evidence such as demonstrative evidence like photographs, diagrams, and created evidence that experts reconstructed from the accident scene. Experts can give testimony based on their special knowledge in a variety of areas. Blood analysts can ascertain alcohol or other intoxicants in the blood of a suspect, and prove if the driver that caused the accident was under the influence or not.

The purpose for obtaining and developing all this evidence, and trying to ensure its admissibility, is fundamental. The jury was not there during the event, so the more complete a picture can be made, the better the right outcome will result. Each case is unique and everything explained here is hypothetical. How evidence is obtained and its type will depend on the situation.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.