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Understanding Evidence in a Criminal Trial

The Law Offices of John Della Rocca June 24, 2022

Evidence is always at the heart of every criminal case. The strength of the prosecution’s case depends on the availability of evidence against the defendant. In a criminal trial, the evidence can mean the difference between obtaining a “guilty” verdict and getting the charges dismissed.  

If you are facing criminal charges, it is essential to understand the role and admissibility of evidence in a criminal trial. It is vital to consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney to help fight for your rights, suppress inadmissible evidence, and provide you with the strong representation you need to secure a preferable outcome in your case.

At The Law Offices of John Della Rocca, I provide legal counsel and fight tirelessly on behalf of clients facing criminal charges in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and throughout the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

What Is Evidence?

Evidence can be direct or circumstantial. In criminal cases, evidence can take the form of physical items or verbal statements presented by (a) the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty or (b) the defendant to prove that he or she is not guilty.

In a criminal trial, the prosecution has the burden to prove that the defendant is guilty of the alleged criminal offense. Whether or not the defendant will be found guilty or not guilty depends on the evidence against them.

Types of Evidence in Criminal Cases

Evidence in criminal cases can take various forms and may include physical and verbal evidence. Some of the most common examples of evidence in a criminal trial include:

  • Weapons or other objects used in the alleged commission of the crime

  • Samples of blood or DNA

  • Video footage

  • Photographs

  • Fingerprints or footprints

  • Forensic or scientific evidence

  • Written testimony

Verbal evidence can include:

  • Testimony by eyewitnesses and expert witnesses

  • The defendant’s confession

  • Any other spoken evidence obtained during the criminal investigation

When gathering evidence against the defendant, the prosecution further categorizes evidence into direct and circumstantial:

  1. Direct evidence is any evidence that directly proves the fact in issue. Examples of direct evidence include a confession, a weapon used in the crime, eyewitness accounts, security camera footage, and others.

  2. Circumstantial evidence is any evidence that suggests a logical inference that the fact exists. Unlike direct evidence, circumstantial evidence does not prove a fact in issue. Examples of circumstantial evidence include indirect witness testimony and scientific evidence, among others.

Relevance of the Evidence

In criminal cases, evidence may be deemed inadmissible if the evidence presented by the prosecution is not relevant to a fact in issue. The judge has the authority to examine the relevance of the evidence and decide on the admissibility of evidence in a criminal trial. When evidence is deemed not admissible, it will be excluded from the criminal case, which means it would not be used during the trial to support the prosecutor’s case.

When determining if the evidence at hand is relevant or irrelevant, the judge will consider whether the evidence has the relevance to prove or disprove a fact or facts in issue. Facts in issue differ from one case to another and depend on the circumstances of the offense.

What Evidence May Be Not Admissible?

In criminal cases, a judge may not allow specific evidence to be admitted in court and used against the defendant. Evidence may be not admissible for several reasons, including:

  • Hearsay (an out-of court statement ordered for the truth of the statement therein)

  • The evidence was gathered in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights or the U.S. Constitution as a whole (e.g., the evidence was obtained during an illegal search and seizure)

  • The defendant’s confession was coerced

  • The evidence is not relevant to the fact of issue

If you believe that the evidence against you in your criminal case should not be admissible, you must hire an attorney to help you prepare a motion to suppress the evidence on admissibility grounds.

Get Reliable Representation

An experienced criminal defense attorney understands the laws regarding the admissibility of evidence in criminal cases. At The Law Offices of John Della Rocca, I have the experience representing clients facing criminal charges in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey to prepare the strongest defense in your case. If you want to learn more about the admissibility and relevance of evidence in your criminal case, schedule a case evaluation with me today at The Law Offices of John Della Rocca.