Circumstantial, Direct and Relevant Evidence
All evidence must be relevant in order for it to be admissible. There are numerous instances when relevant evidence is not admissible for various reasons including hearsay. Evidence itself falls into one of two categories, direct or circumstantial.
Direct evidence is evidence in which no inferences need to be drawn to reach a conclusion. Direct evidence is either testimony or real evidence that goes to the material issue in the case.
Circumstantial evidence is evidence that is in an indirect form and requires inference based upon the facts. In many criminal cases circumstantial evidence is the only type of evidence that the prosecution may have in their case-in-chief against a defendant. Evidence, which may circumstantially create an inference of identity, may include clothing possessed by the defendant or weapons owned by the defendant similar to those that were used in the commission of the crime.
First, in order to determine if evidence is relevant, the evidence must tend to prove or disprove some material fact in the case. If it does tend to prove or disprove a fact in the case, then the evidence is relevant and if it does not, then the evidence is not relevant.
Second, after it has been determined that the evidence is relevant, it must be determined whether a foundation has been properly laid for the admission of the evidence. For example, whether the witness testifying is competent or qualifies as an expert.
Third, once it has been determined that a proper foundation has been established, the next issue that needs to be determined is whether the evidence is in proper form. For example, if one is attempting to introduce an expert witness, are the questions in the proper format to illustrate the expert’s knowledge and expertise in a certain field.
Last, after it has been determined that the proper foundation exists, the next issue is whether the evidence will be excluded for other reasons. Relevant evidence may be excluded for a number of reasons including:
- If the prejudicial value of the evidence outweighs the probative value. The trial court has the discretion to exclude evidence that falls under this category.
- Public policy reasons.
- Privilege asserted.
- Parol evidence.
If the evidence is relevant and has met the four above steps, the evidence will be admitted.