Understanding Evidence in Criminal Defense

In criminal law, evidence is everything – although the judge or the jury ultimately holds the power to decide the defendant’s fate, evidence is the only thing that influences their decision.

Evidence is necessary

The defense and the prosecution in a criminal defense case use a variety of evidence, with both sides vying to prove the defendant’s guilt or innocence; thusly, evidence is vital for supporting a side’s argument. They’re so important that the presence of one piece of evidence can turn a whole case around. Without evidence, the defense or prosecution’s cases will shatter, which often results in the verdict of guilty or not guilty.

Types of evidence

Testimonial Evidence

Witnesses fill an important role in criminal defense: by providing written or oral testimonies regarding the case. Witness testimonies are very strong, and can make or break a side’s argument, even in the face of other evidence. Testimonies are usually corroborated with other evidence, giving support for each other.

However, testimonies also have its weak points as well, which could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the side:

  • Witnesses are human beings and thus, are not perfect. Their memory about the crime can be hazy, and may be influenced by their biases. In addition, their testimony may not be credible, especially if they have a prior criminal history. This can work in the defense’s favor if the witness’ testimony supports the prosecution’s arguments.
  • Witnesses may have hidden agendas, making it likely for them to lie particularly if they have a familial, romantic, or platonic relationship with the defendant. A Las Vegas criminal defense attorney can point out this fact to the court, which can make their testimony useless.
  • Witnesses can be tampered with by persuading them or threatening them, resulting in them lying or keeping their silence. In notorious cases, witnesses have been known to be killed or harmed.

Physical or Real Evidence

Physical evidence is present in most cases, even in the absence of witnesses. For example, presenting the murder weapon as evidence is often crucial in murder cases, and without it, it might be impossible to determine the defendant’s guilt. The only downside of physical evidence is they can be fabricated, tampered, or even destroyed.

Documentary Evidence

This is evidence that is not only limited to writings on a paper but also includes any media where any information can be preserved.

Digital Evidence

This is evidence in the form of information that is stored and/or transmitted in digital form. This includes e-mails, instant message histories, computer memory, digital audio and video files and even GPS tracks, among others.

Scientific or Forensic Evidence

Scientific evidence is just another facet of physical evidence, but obtained through forensic investigation. Like in media, the police collect evidence at the crime scene. For example, in a domestic violence case, the police will collect evidence like blood, fingerprints, or anything that can determine how the events exactly transpired. The only problem is how the media influenced the jury’s decision-making by giving forensic evidence the reputation of being perfect and fast, when in fact they can take a long time to process, and are still prone to inaccuracies and mistakes. Furthermore, the staff involved in the investigation can be persuaded or threatened to tamper with the results.

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