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What Makes Evidence Inadmissible in a Criminal Case?

a attorney looking over evidence for a criminal trial

Proof through evidence is inevitable for a fair trial both in criminal and civil proceedings. So, understanding why certain types of evidence may be inadmissible and how to prevent it from being included is important to a strong defense.

As a law firm with experienced defense attorneys who have dealt in hundreds of criminal trials one common issue that we face is the admissibility of evidence. Every piece of evidence must meet certain standards in order for it to be legally accepted and used in a trial or other legal proceeding.

Examples of Inadmissible Evidence

Inadmissible evidence is evidence that does not meet the requirements set out by the rules of evidence and therefore cannot be used to prove a fact or issue in a criminal or civil trial. For instance, evidence obtained through an illegal search may be found inadmissible in court. In addition, evidence that has been obtained through undue delay or due to a mistake may also be excluded in many civil or criminal proceedings.

Adam Touma, Greenville criminal defense attorney

Other examples of these include relevancy, hearsay rule, character evidence, authentication of evidence, and best evidence rule.

  • Relevancy: This means that the evidence must be relevant to the case and have a bearing on the outcome of the case.
  • Hearsay Rule: The hearsay rule prevents evidence from being admitted if it is based on someone else’s words or statements.
  • Character Evidence: This means that evidence cannot be admitted if it is used to prove the character of a person, such as their past behavior or criminal record.
  • Authentication of Evidence: This requires that the evidence be authenticated, which means that it is proven to be genuine.
  • Best Evidence Rule: This rule requires that the original document is presented in court as opposed to a copy or transcript. For instance, if a contract was used as evidence, then the original document must be presented.

Types of Evidence

There are several types of acceptable evidence that can be used in court, but each type of evidence has different standards and rules for admissibility.

evidence spread out on a table, What Makes Evidence Inadmissible

Real Evidence

This is also known as “physical evidence” and involves tangible objects that are presented in court as evidence. It is usually presented through witness testimony or photographs. Also, real evidence can be a weapon used in the crime or any other material object that is connected to the case.

Documentary Evidence

This type of evidence includes documents such as emails, letters, and contracts. They can be used to prove the existence of a contract or to establish an agreement between two parties. In fact, anything in writing that can be authenticated as true can be used as documentary evidence in court.

FAQ: What is Probable Cause for a Search?

Demonstrative Evidence

This is used to illustrate a point or concept, such as diagrams and models that demonstrate the position of objects at a crime scene. Usually, this type of evidence is used by expert witnesses who can explain how it relates to the case.

Hearsay Evidence

This is evidence that is based on what someone has heard rather than seen or experienced first-hand. It is often inadmissible in court since it can be unreliable. Although, there are exceptions to this rule depending on the circumstances. For instance, it can be used to corroborate a witness’s testimony or in cases where the person who said it is not available for cross-examination.

Character Evidence

This type of evidence is used to prove a person’s character traits or conduct. It can include things such as statements from witnesses about the accused's past behavior or criminal record.

More often than not, character evidence is not admissible in court because it can be prejudicial or unreliable. But, it can be used in certain limited circumstances to prove a person’s motive or intent.

What Is the Difference Between Admissible and Inadmissible Evidence?

The main difference between admissible evidence and inadmissible evidence is that admissible evidence meets the requirements set out by the rules of evidence and can be used in a criminal or civil trial, while inadmissible evidence does not meet the requirements and cannot be used.

Also, admissible evidence must be authenticated and relevant to the case, while inadmissible evidence cannot meet these standards. In addition, admissible evidence may include personal knowledge, expert testimony, public records, and physical evidence, while inadmissible evidence may include hearsay, character traits, forms of witness testimony that are unreliable, and evidence obtained through illegal searches.

Learn More: What to Expect From Criminal Court

Furthermore, admissible evidence can be used to prove a fact or issue of fact in court, while inadmissible evidence cannot. For example, in a criminal trial, if the defendant has physical evidence linking them to the scene of the crime (such as fingerprints or DNA samples), then that is admissible evidence that can be used to prove the defendant’s guilt.

Lastly, admissible evidence must be obtained without undue delay, while inadmissible evidence may contain a significant amount of delay. In this regard, evidence that is obtained after a certain amount of time has passed may be inadmissible due to the lapse of time.

What Are Some Factors That Make Evidence Inadmissible?

The factors that determine whether evidence is inadmissible are based on the rules of evidence, which vary by jurisdiction. Generally, evidence must be relevant to the case, reliable and authentic, obtained without undue delay, and free from any mistake.

It is also important to obtain evidence that is relevant and material to the issue in question, as any immaterial or irrelevant evidence can be excluded. Furthermore, any evidence that is obtained through an illegal search or without a proper search warrant may be excluded in court.

an evidence form on a table with a magnifying glass over it

Additionally, evidence must meet certain standards related to the form and kind of evidence, such as an experienced attorney's personal knowledge or special knowledge, scientific evidence, or physical objects.

In a criminal trial, evidence must also be obtained without the use of physical violence. Furthermore, certain forms of witness testimony may be excluded if they are deemed unreliable, such as hearsay.

What If Evidence Is Considered Inadmissible?

If evidence is considered inadmissible, then it cannot be used to prove a fact or issue of fact in court. The defense team may file a motion to exclude the evidence in order to prevent it from being used against their client. The trial judge will ultimately decide whether or not to allow the evidence.

Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Having the right attorney to protect your rights and help ensure that all evidence is admissible can be the difference between a successful outcome and an unfavorable one. It is important to have an experienced attorney on your side who understands the rules of evidence and can ensure that all evidence used against you is valid and admissible.

With an experienced attorney on your side, you can have the confidence that your rights are being protected and that any evidence used against you is properly authenticated.

Touma Law Group has experienced attorneys who specifically focus on criminal defense and have helped hundreds of clients achieve successful outcomes. Contact us today at 864-618-2323 to learn more about our services and how we can help protect your rights.

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