Texas LawCriminal Justice System
How Legal Evidence Works
It behooves anybody needing legal representation to understand the basics of how evidence works. A complex process dictates whether or not evidence will be allowed in a court case; attorneys and clients don’t get the luxury of just deciding to include a piece for consideration. Each piece of evidence is bound to a strict protocol of verification, approval, marking and weighing before it can be admitted.
Types of Legal Evidence
By nature, the evidence is all-encompassing: It’s anything and everything you need to present to make sure your arguments are airtight. That said, there are several types of evidence that may be admissible in a court case, including:
- Real – Includes any physical object used to prove an argument, such as a weapon, a piece of clothing, even hair. It is evidence that can be seen, heard, touched or otherwise engaged with the senses.
- Records – Includes paper and digital documentation of movements and transactions. Arrests and other legal or government documents are the most obvious example of records that may be admissible as evidence. Financial and medical records are also commonly used as binding evidence in court.
- Writings – Includes any piece of writing other than records, such as personal notes, written or emailed correspondence, and contracts.
- Demonstrable – Stands in for a real item or phenomenon or location. Maps qualify as demonstrable evidence, as do videos, charts and photos.
Regardless of the type of evidence, it can be dismissed if deemed irrelevant or insufficient. Some hearing officers will require you to present your case prior to your day in court to ensure that what you’ve got isn’t going to waste courtroom time. Depending on the district and hearing officer in question, this may involve numbering each piece of evidence you want to submit in a predetermined order. You should make every effort to submit only evidence that is relevant to your case and you can actually verify, regardless of whether or not you are required to pre-submit that evidence for approval.
Attorneys scrutinize evidence in pretty extreme detail before deciding whether or not to include it in their arguments. Here are four key questions they ask before including evidence into their arguments:
- Is it authentic?
- Is it relevant?
- Is it fair?
- Is it reliable?
Hearsay is basically never considered worth including; it’s too intangible. Rely less on eyewitness accounts – 75 percent of them can be overridden by DNA evidence – and more on items that the judge can actually see and hear, even touch and smell. The stronger the evidence, the stronger the case.
All pieces of evidence accepted for inclusion must be marked and weighted to determine their importance to the case. “Weight” hinges largely on relevance and reliability, with the more verifiably accurate items holding much more influence over a case’s outcome than the more intangible stuff.
Once all of the aforementioned qualities have been determined, attorneys stick to this protocol when making an evidence-based argument:
- Evidence is marked based on importance and time it will be included in the case
- Evidence is presented to the opposing attorney or team of attorneys
- Permission is granted to approach the individual on the stand
- Evidence is presented to the individual on the stand
- The argument regarding the evidence is presented (“laying the foundation”)
- A motion to admit the exhibit of evidence is presented
- The individual on the stand is asked to mark, sometimes even use, the evidence
The Legal Evidence Masters
Thiessen Law Firm’s team of expert attorneys understand how to try and object evidence and prevent damaging evidence from being admitted in the first place. Even when the evidence is stacked against a client, our award-winning attorneys know how to expose reasonable doubt and prevent a jury from convicting an innocent person. Contact us today for a free case evaluation!