Rules Of Evidence
Basic rules for admissibility of evidence are competence, relevance and materiality. If evidence is shown to be one of those three, then it is admissible.
Evidence should be considered relevant when it contains any trends within reason to either prove or disprove a particular fact more or less probable. Relevant evidence does not specifically require the gatherer of the evidence to undoubtedly prove any particular question in the investigation. Instead, relevant evidence merely needs to hold some piece of pertinent information pertaining to even the smallest aspect of the investigation.
For instance, in the case of a robbery, someone who heard the defendant boasting possible criminal intent would be considered a relevant witness. Again, the plaintiff who in this case would be the employee directly involved at the establishment being robbed, would obtain relevant evidence. Alas, someone involved after the crime, i.e. – a merchant who happened to sell the defendant an item that would normally be out of their grasp of gaining financially, would hold relevant information that would be considered evidence. As you can tell, relevant evidence does not have to come directly from the crime scene itself, nor does it have to be obtained from a specific time period.
Evidence would be considered material when it is offered to either prove or disprove a specific fact that is presented in a case. For example, in a murder case, an eye witness may testify that he saw the defendant’s car drive by the victim’s apartment several times prior to the murder would be material to prove the fact that the defendant was in the area at the time of the murder. However, this may or may not have any value to whether or not the defendant actually did murder the victim. Issues in the case will be decided by pleadings, any formal stipulations or admissions, and applicable law in that area. For example, if the defendant admitted that he was in the area at the time of the murder but had nothing to do with it, the evidence that he was in the area would then be considered not to be material unless it were relevant to some other issue in the case. Evidence will be considered competent if the evidence of proof that is submitted can be considered reliable. This means meeting certain traditional requirements of reliability. When the preliminary showing that evidence meets those certain tests and requirements for admissibility occurs, it is called foundational evidence.
There are four different types of evidence real, demonstrative, documentary, and testimonial. Some of them share the same rules for admissibility, and some of them have their own rules for admissibility.
Each state has their own rules of evidence, but the rules tend to be the same in the states that are based on the common law.
Real evidence is things in which the existence or characteristics are relevant and material. It’s usually something that in the case was directly involved. For example, real evidence can be bullet casings, knives, bloody clothing, footprints, blood, photographs and fingerprints. Anything that is seen, touched, or smelled is real evidence.
To be admissible, real evidence must be competent, material, and relevant (Dicarlo, 2001). The materiality and relevance of real evidence is usually obvious. Real evidence is competent when it is established by showing that it is what it is supposed to be. There are three ways in which real evidence can be authenticated. Establishing a chain of custody, knowing where it was at all times, from the time it was at the scene to the time it was in the court room.
By witness testimonies who can identify the individual object being shown to them in court. By identification of a certain object made unique by someone or something. For example a chipped glass, a witness could identify that one glass out of all the others because it was made unique with the chip in it.
Demonstrative evidence is exactly how it sounds. It is the visual materials used during legal proceedings as courtroom presentations or visual materials used as investigative aids (Mancusi, 2001). Its purpose is to demonstrate or illustrate testimony by a witness. For example, demonstrative evidence can be evidence such as photographs, maps, animations, and diagrams of a particular scene. Because demonstrative evidence is meant to illustrate testimony it should be authenticated by the witness whose testimony is being given.
Documentary evidence is any type of document, anything on paper. It can be a private document or public document. Private documents for example can be letters, wills, personal notes, bank statements and private agreements. Public documents for example can be marriage certificates, birth certificates, and accident reports. Documentary evidence is like real evidence; it is authenticated by a witness, or by a chain of custody. Some documents submitted into evidence are already authenticated, for example legal documents, public records, and newspapers are already authenticated.
Testimonial evidence is the most basic form of evidence. It does not need any other form of evidence as a requirement for admissibility. Testimonial evidence is done by a witness on stand telling what happened, information on an object shown to them and anything they say about the case. A witness must be competent in order to testify on stand. The witness is competent if he meets the following requirements:
1. He must, with understanding, take the oath or a substitute. Evid. Code § § 710, 701; Fed Rules Evid. 603.
2. He must have personal knowledge about the subject of his testimony. In another sense he must have perceived something with his senses that is relevant to the case. Evid Code § 702; Fed. Rules Evid. 602.
3. He must remember what he perceived.
4. He must be able to communicate what he perceived. Evid Code § 701(a) (1).
In dealing with the witness taking the oath or substitute, he must have an understanding of the oath or substitute, and any kind of affirmation to tell the truth. In dealing with the communication of what he perceived required can be through an interpreter, spoken, in writing, and sign language. In dealing with what the witness remembered of what he perceived if he forgets the lawyers can ask for a recess, attempt to refresh the witness’s memory with a leading question, and using a method called “past recollection refreshed”. When using “past recollection refreshed” you may use anything that the witness says might help him, his own notes, photographs, documents, a particular song, or a certain smell might refresh his memory.
Following the rules of evidence will help in all cases in which you are admitting evidence. Knowledge of the rules of evidence will allow you to put your proof before the finder of fact and to maybe keep some of the opposing sides proof from being acknowledged.
Dicarlo, Vincent (2001, September 10) A Summary of the Rules of Evidence 23 pages Retrieved March 21st, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.dicarlolaw.com/RulesofEvidenceSummary.htm
The Federal Rules of Evidence
Mancusi, Stephen (2000) Demonstrative Evidence, Retrieved March 26, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.forartist.com/forensic/demonstrative/demonstratvepg.htm