Evidence In Criminal Trials: What’s Allowed & What’s Not

In criminal trials, there are many things that will affect the outcome of the case. One of the major factors that play into a guilty or innocent conviction is the evidence presented in a case. There are four main types of evidence that are used in criminal cases, Real, Demonstrative, Documentary, and Testimonials. Today on the blog, we will explain the four types of evidence that are used in a criminal trial, including what they are, why each type is important, and what’s allowed in court. We’ll also take an in-depth look at Testimonial evidence and why it can be both a good and bad thing in criminal cases. 

Continue reading to learn more about evidence in criminal cases.

The Four Types of Evidence

Four types of evidence can be used in a criminal trial in Missouri. The following four types of evidence can be used by both the prosecution and the defense:

Real Evidence

What it is: Think physical, tangible evidence. Anything that is made of a material object is considered real evidence. This can include weapons, blood samples, DNA, fingerprints, clothing, etc.

Why it’s important: Real evidence is often the focal point of the case and is used to prove the guilt or innocence of the person on trial. 

What’s allowed: In order to read evidence to be admissible in court, it MUST be relevant to the case. Furthermore, it must be authentic. When a prosecuting attorney or in some cases, a criminal defense attorney in Springfield is making sure the evidence is allowed, they will establish these basic requirements by what is called laying a foundation, through the item’s chain of custody by way of witnesses.

Demonstrative Evidence

Businesswoman and Male lawyer or judge consult having team meeti

What it is: Evidence in the form of charts and/or diagrams. Something that is used to demonstrate a witness’s testimony. Maps, crime scene diagrams, and charts the show physical or financial damage to the plaintiff are also examples. 

Why it’s important: This type of evidence explains how something occurred, such as a crime scene diagram. These can help the jury in their final decision. However, demonstrative evidence rarely holds as much weight as real evidence does in a Springfield criminal defense trial. 

What’s allowed: Authentic demonstrations and illustrations only. Also, all demonstrative evidence must be used to create value in the case, not to cause prejudice. This is the probative and prejudicial value of the evidence, respectively. When you hire a Springfield criminal defense attorney to defend you, they will be able to stop this type of evidence from being allowed.

Documentary Evidence

What it is: Any type of documentary evidence such as diary entries (whole diaries), newspaper articles, letters, contracts, etc.

Why it’s important: Documentary evidence in some cases can make or break a case, especially if it’s the form of a contract or if the defendant has written information or even testimony that would disprove their evidence.

What’s allowed: Documentary evidence, like all other forms of evidence, must be trustworthy and authentic. Historically, documentary evidence doesn’t hold as much weight in a trial as demonstrative or real evidence because documents can easily be forged.

Testimonial Evidence

What it is: Testimonial evidence is when a person tells what they saw and/or hear on the stand under oath.

Why it’s important: Witnesses of crimes may have seen something that could either incriminate the defendant or prove his or her innocence. However, visual testimonies historically have been known to be wildly incorrect. For example, many people will say they saw a man in a black coat when really it was a woman wearing a red coat. 

What’s allowed: While all evidence is put under intense scrutiny to determine whether or not it is authentic and high in probative value and low prejudicial value, testimonial evidence has many requirements in order to be admissible in court. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The testimony should be logically connected to the crime. 
  • The witness can only testify on information they have witnessed or received firsthand. Hearsay is not allowed.
  • Defendants and other witnesses can testify on behalf of the defendant’s “good character”. Discuss this option with your criminal defense attorney in Springfield before taking the stand. 
  • If good character evidence occurs, prosecutors may have the opportunity to enter “bad character evidence”. Typically, they are not allowed to do this until “good character” evidence has been entered in the trial. 
  • Witnesses can have their character attacked, including any past criminal activity to determine their overall credibility.
  • Defendants have the right to protect their past criminal convictions from the jury unless they enter “good character” evidence. Where then the prosecution can use their criminal past (if applicable) to paint a negative picture. 
  • Rape shield laws protect victims from answering questions about their sexual history that are irrelevant to the case. 
  • Finally, there are confidential privileges between the defendant and others that prevent private information from being disclosed, this includes the criminal defense attorney-client relationship, doctors and their patients, spouses, and ministers and their congregants.

All criminal cases are different and unique to the person and the situation. Working with a criminal defense attorney in Springfield will allow you to use the right type of evidence to help your case and to have someone on your side who can adequately argue against any evidentiary support that may paint you in a negative light. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Missouri, contact the legal team of Missouri Legal. We are here to make sure that you are guaranteed a fair trial.