How Can Evidence Impact the Outcome of a Criminal Defense Case?
In every criminal case, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. The burden lies upon the prosecution to prove beyond any doubt that the defendant committed the crime in question. To mount a successful defense, the defendant’s legal team must introduce doubt into the jury’s mind about their client’s guilt. Evidence is the primary method by which juries are persuaded to acquit the accused.
To build a strong defense, an attorney must gather all the available evidence and then carefully choose and curate the items that will be most beneficial. Each case is unique and requires a different approach to reach the best possible outcome. A Florida defense attorney can explain the general information you should know about collecting and presenting evidence in a criminal case. However, if you wish to learn how these tactics may apply to your specific case, you should reach out to a trusted criminal defense firm today.
What Are The Common Types of Evidence Utilized By Criminal Defense Attorneys?
Evidence can come in many different forms. A skilled defense attorney can sort through all available information to determine what evidence will contribute the most to their client’s case. A strong defense that can establish reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt often utilizes a combination of the following types of evidence:
- Direct evidence: Direct evidence is possibly the clearest variety of evidence and requires no presumptions or inferences on the part of the judge or jury members. Examples include eyewitness testimony regarding the crime, confessions, surveillance footage, DNA samples, and ballistics information.
- Circumstantial evidence: This type of evidence does not directly prove that an event happened but can allow a jury to logically infer the claim’s validity. For example, if a person was seen near the crime scene and their fingerprints were also found there, it doesn’t decisively prove their guilt. However, based on these facts, it could be reasonably inferred that they were involved in the crime. A body of circumstantial evidence can be very compelling as a defense if appropriately presented.
- Documentary evidence: Photos, police reports, text messages, emails, and other documentation can be vital to establishing the facts in a case. Documentary evidence is often time-stamped and can raise objections to a crime’s proposed timeline or cast doubt on the defendant’s ability to commit the act. It may also contradict a witness’s testimony and call their reliability into question.
- Physical evidence: Tangible items found at the crime scene or other relevant locations can be presented as physical evidence, such as weapons, hair, or clothing. These items may leave a strong impression on jurors because they are clear-cut and do not require interpretation or inference.
- Expert testimony: Experts in forensics, ballistics, drug chemistry, crime scene recreation, and other fields are frequently called upon for defense purposes. They can explain complex technical ideas to the jury and provide their opinion on the significance of specific physical or documentary evidence.
How is Evidence Collected?
A thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the crime is critical to ensure that all key evidence is collected and presented in the best possible manner. Experienced defense attorneys often have a network of resources to call upon to help with the evidence-gathering process, including trained researchers, private investigators, and experts in many fields. Methods for collecting the necessary evidence to build a strong defense may include:
- Hands-on investigation: Even though police generally conduct the initial investigation of a crime scene, there may be evidence they missed while processing the scene. By utilizing their resource network, defense lawyers and private investigators may be able to bring together evidence that casts doubt on the prosecution’s case.
- Witness interviews: Individuals who saw the crime or were in the vicinity may be able to provide critical information about the incident. While people may be hesitant to speak to law enforcement for various reasons, they may be more willing to talk with a defense attorney. However, the attorney must also weigh the witness’s credibility and assess the impression they may make on the stand when considering how to use their testimony.
- Expert consultations: An expert can evaluate areas of a case or police investigation and either support or refute the interpretation of the evidence. A compelling expert can significantly influence a jury’s perspective on the case.
- Filing subpoenas and pre-trial motions: Defense attorneys must ensure that all pertinent evidence is available to them before the case goes to trial. This includes evidence collected by the prosecution and information held by reluctant witnesses. Attorneys may use legal tools such as filing a motion for discovery or subpoenaing a witness to get the evidence they need to mount a thorough defense.
What Factors Impact the Admissibility of Evidence?
The justice system is governed by rules that ensure the fairness of trials and the protection of the rights of all involved parties. Limitations on admissible evidence are part of these rules. By restricting evidence to verifiable information that directly applies to the case, the court can uphold the principles of the law. Florida statutes include an Evidence Code that outlines procedures for trials and prohibits the use of certain evidence, including:
- Non-relevant or immaterial evidence: All presented evidence must be within the scope of the trial and either prove or disprove a material fact of the case.
- Hearsay information: Hearsay is a statement made by someone outside of court that is being presented as a fact. This type of evidence is usually not admissible because it is second-hand and unreliable. Additionally, the person who made the statement is generally not available to be questioned in court, so it cannot be verified. However, there are particular situations where hearsay evidence may be allowed.
- Unauthenticated or improperly collected evidence: Both sides in a criminal trial must adhere to set rules when gathering evidence. Evidence that is collected in violation of an individual’s rights or state laws will be disallowed. For example, a coerced confession or statements from an illegal recording should not be admissible.
- Privileged communications: The court prohibits using certain communications as evidence to protect an individual’s right to privacy and their ability to seek certain types of assistance, such as medical care or legal advice. Examples of relationships with this privilege include lawyer-client, doctor-patient, and clergy-parishioner.
- Statements on character and credibility: Character and credibility information is only allowed within strict guidelines for specific purposes. General character statements that could sway the jury’s view of the witness, defendant, or victim are not permissible.
Why is the Defense’s Presentation of Evidence Vital?
Evidence and its presentation form the core of every criminal trial. The jury will make their verdict based on their understanding of the evidence they’ve seen. A skilled personal injury lawyer knows the importance of collecting solid evidence and persuasively exhibiting that evidence to directly impact the outcome of the case.
Weldon Law Group, PLLC has the criminal defense experience and resources you can count on, no matter the charges you face. To learn how we can assist you with your legal issues, contact our office today at 904-204-3420 to schedule a free strategy session.