- Contact the Professor
- Evidence: Basic Concepts
- Circumstantial Evidence
- Physical Evidence
- Documentary Evidence & Right of Discovery
- Photographic, Recored and Digital evidence
- Search and Seizure
- Identification Procedures
- Admissions & Confessions
- How to Testify Effectively
- Digital Stories
Rules of Evidence
Law can be a fascinating field with many possibilities. One of most important facts to learn regarding law is that there is ALWAYS a loophole somewhere.
Do you know your 4th and 5th amendment rights? If an officer stops and frisks you for no apparent reason, is that acceptable? As a police officer, how does the Miranda Rule affect your job? What is Plain View Doctrine? Is circumstantial evidence worth anything in court? How does the right to privacy affect email transactions? Know your personal rights! This is one of the most valuable tools of knowledge for any American citizen.
This course outline will cover underlying basic rules of evidence, evidentiary procedures, burdens of proof, probative value, presumptions, stipulations, competency, privilege, cross-examination, hearsay, and expert opinion testimony. We will also discuss the differences between Circumstantial and Direct evidence and how each are used in a court of law.
You are not going to be required to recite which case law pertains to a certain situation. This isn’t law school. However, you will be required to look at how case law affects the many aspects of today and have a fundamental grasp on how to research the information needed.
** Autumn AraSmith**
Direct Evidence- testimony of a person who asserts or claims to have actual knowledge of a fact, such as an eyewitness
-Direct evidence is the products of a person’s sensory perception
Circumstantial Evidence- evidence that tends to establish the facts in dispute by proving the existence of another set of facts from which an inference or a presumption can be drawn
Ex. A witness overheard a heated discussion between the accused and the victim, than heard a shot, after that saw the accused, holding a gun, running from the room where the victim was found. From those facts you can assume that the accused is guilty
Character Evidence Rule- States evidence of a trait of character to prove a person’s conduct in conformity with that trait is inadmissible with a few exceptions
Motive- which move a person to act or explains the reason a person acted
Intent- a state of mind; it expresses mental action that is usually coupled with an outward physical act to cause a particular result
Doctrine of Chances- the use of evidence of other, similar occurrences to show that the charged crime is not isolated even due to chance
Ex. Woman is been married five times and all of her husbands have died by falling down the stairs
Modus Operandi- a distinctive pattern of committing crimes
Ex. The robber always uses a green crow bar to break in the back door
Consciousness of guilt- Evidence of an accused uncustomary acts, statements, or appearance from which guilt maybe inferred
Defendant’s good character rule-The rule of evidence that permits an accused to introduce evidence of good character in an attempt to prove his or her innocence
Impeachment- the process by which the credibility of a witness is attacked
Self defense- justifiable use of force to protect oneself from a real or threatened attack.
Rape shield laws- laws that prohibit a person accused of a sexual offense from introducing evidence of the sexual background or behavior of the victim
Why use Circumstantial Evidence?
Circumstantial evidence can be just as convincing as direct evidence and often may be even more reliable. Although sometimes a witness can have difficulty remembering details such as the time the event happened or accurate descriptions. Whether direct or circumstantial evidence is to be introduced, the rules of admissibility are the same. First, the evidence must meet the requirement of relevance.
Relevance is showing that an item of evidence has any tendency to prove on disprove a pertinent fact. Motion in Limine is a motion to exclude or admit evidence, often made before trial and usually heard out of the presence of the jury. After the attorney’s make written and/or oral arguments, the judge then rules on the admissibility of the evidence.
FRE 403 has a balancing test. This is a requirement that relevant evidence be excluded if it’s “probative value is substantially out weighed b the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.”
What is Physical evidence? There are many types of evidence including physical evidence which would be material evidence.Demonstrative evidence is another type of evidence. A model, imitation and a copy would be an examply od demonstrative evidence. Real evidence would be the object itself.
For pyhsical evidence can be admissable it must have some connection to the facts of the case. It must be relevant to the issues of the trial and it must assist in proving the facts in dispute. "relevant evidence" is having any tendency tol make the exsistence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probably or less probable than it would be without the evidence.
Authenication or identification process in laying the foundation for the object. ways to accomplish this would include
A) Testimony of a witness who has first hand knowledge.
B) A nonexpert who was familiar with a persons handwritting and did not gain the knowledge of he handwritting for the purpose of the liligation, such as a spouse or roommate.
C)Allowing the jury or expert to compare the object to an example and decide the authenticity
D)Distinctive chararisticsand surrounding circumstances such as sending a bill to an address and receiving payment from the bill or
E)Voice identification that can be learned firsthand or throughb a mechanical or electonic transmission such as a relevision or digital answering device.
Due to a great impact to physical evidence a defense will try to exclude the object from being introduced as evidence. There are many kinds of physical evidence. Fruit of crime would be the property that is seizuable by the police officer such as robbert or embezzalment. Instrumentaility of a crime is propert that is seizualbe by the police officer that was used in means of coThmmitting a crime. Contraband is any item that is illegal for a person to possess. And evidence of a crime is an object that demostrates that a crime has been committed.
The first thing that a police officer must do when comming upon a crime scence is to make sure no idividual needs medical attention. Any piece of evidence that is found at the crime scence must be packaged according to the law. When finding a weapon at the crime scence, making it admissable, there are several steps an officer must take. Page 413-414 in your text book will explain that process.
One effective means by which the officer can identify an object to be introduced in edience is for the officer to keep the object in his or her personal possesion which would also be called exclusice evidence. The chain of custody is the process the police officer goes threw so they are able to tell the judge or any other person involved in the case who has had possesion of the evidence and where the evidence had been sent. The evidence found at the crime scence must be in the same condition as it was found when that evidence is going into court.
Explosives and narcotics should never be shipped without meeting the federal shipping guidelines. A serperate letter or phone call to the crime laboratory should be made, advising that the package is in route. In that package should be enclosed a letter explained what is being transmitted. This makes the number of people handling the cass to a minimun.
The courts try to avoid using gruesome objects in court. Photographs of the crime scence or corpses have veen admitted to show the crime scence, including the layout of the murder location, blullet holes, and blood splatter. In all juristictions, a gruesome photograph will be excluded if its probable value is substansially outweighted by its potential for unfair prejudice. The purpose of this law is to prevent a conviction based on the violence and depravation of the crime scene.
Some photographs and videos of the crime scene are frequently displayed to jurors to enable them to understand and follow the testimony of the wtnesses better.
When it comes to Documentation for the courtroom, it has to be authorized as genuine. This is required for the
courtroom, and wont be allowed in otherwise.In order to be authenticated, there has to be some form of
relevancy to the case,and meet the requirements to fit in as evidence.The Best Evidence rule best comes in here,
and is "The rules says that, if information is to be offered during a trial concerning what is contained
in a document, the best evidence, or best proof, of the contents of the document is the document itself,
and so the original document must be introduced and the original document must be proven to be genuine"
therefore, if this rule is upheld any paper document can and will be allowed in.
With this, in the case of old documents or any other form of delicate evidence Duplicates can be produced
only by means of FRE 1003 stating "FRE 1003 allows a duplicate to be admitted to the same extent as the
original, unless there is a question as to authenticity or if it would be unfair to do so." Some forms of
duplication acceptable: photocopies.
However when the evidence becomes photographs, only the negatives will be allowed as an original form of
evidence. This is due to todays technology being able to warp and tamper with photos.
Then theres the Primary evidence and Secondary Evidence.Primary is a document form. Secondary is anything from
a witness' testimony to a witness supporting the content of a photograph. of course, secondary evidence
has its rules. It can only be used of the original has been destroyed, is unobtainable, in the custody of law
enforcement, is collateral, or is too large to be contained.
In the end, both sides of the courtroom are allowed to know of each others evidence. Such a thing is called
Photographic, Recorded, and Computer-Generate Evidence
By: Jay Wessel
Modern technology has generated a variety of forms of evidence which depict, or record both sounds and images, that are readily admitted as evidence on the same basis as photographs. Other forms admitted as evidence are video and audio recording, x-rays, computer-generated images, and photocopies.
FRE 1001 defines writing and recordings as “letters, words, or numbers, or their equivalent, set down by handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, magnetic impulse, mechanical or electronic recording, or other from of data compilation,”
To introduce a photograph or recording in evidence legal steps must be followed. These steps are to show relevancy, lay the foundation, and satisfy the best evidence rule.
Photographic and recorded evidence can be classified as substantive and demonstrative evidence. If the visual aid is used by the jury in deciding facts, then the visual aid would be used as substantive evidence. If the visual aid is used solely to aid testimony given by a witness, then it is demonstrative evidence.
As long as the pictorial image will assist the jury in understanding the testimony of a witness or will illuminate an idea, the judge has discretion to allow the jury to see the demonstrative aid.
Photographic evidence is used to show the scene of any accident including the crime scene, to demonstrate a theory as to how events occurred or might have occurred, to record behavior of a party of witness, to document surveillance of an individual, and to record police line-ups, identification procedures, and the act of identification itself.
To be admissible, photographic or recorded evidence must have some connection with the facts of the case. Showing relevance is the first step in laying a foundation for the admission of any item of evidence. Relevancy requires that an item of evidence has any tendency to make the existence of any fact of consequence more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. The evidence need only help make the fact somewhat more or less probable. The photograph or recording must be a true and accurate representation of the matter depicted.
There is no presumption that a photograph or recording is a true and accurate depiction of the scene contained within it. There must be a witness who can testify that the scene depicted or the sounds reproduced are true and accurate. All that is required is testimony from a witness that a photograph, recording, illustration, or computer output is what the person offering it claims it to be.
Videotapes and computer generated output will require testimony to demonstrate reliability and accuracy; usually the services of an expert are required. However, there is no legal requirement that the photographer or videographer have any particular amount of experience in photography or film making for the evidence to be admissible in court.
Aside from a witness testifying to its accuracy, another method of authenticating a photograph or recording is to present evidence showing the photograph or recording has been in constant possession or custody of one or more persons and to show that the evidence is in the same condition as it was originally.
To establish chain of custody for photographs, the officer must place the film in an envelope which should contain the following: the case or file number, name of the photographer, the date the photographs were taken, the name of the person to whom the film was released to be developed, the date the film was released, the date the prints and negatives were returned and by whom.
Also to help identification, an object can be placed in the crime scene. The most practical object is an id card, which should be placed in the scene photographed, and should contain the officer’s initials or name and department.
When photographic prints are evidence, they should generally be 8x10 inch, which allows sufficient detail to be seen, easy for the jurors to handle, and fits into the court file conveniently.
Even more effective are overhead projections using transparencies, video projections, or computer assisted video projected onto a screen large enough for everyone in the courtroom to see, or delivered to a monitor placed before the witness, jury, judge, and lawyers. In these instances, hard copies should be taken if the object may be questioned for admissibility. The hard copies can then be shown directly to the judge versus making the jury leave in order for the judge to review the projection.
by Brad Dible
Photographic evidence is used for a few reasons in the court room. Among them to show the scene of a crime. To give a theory on what happened. And record the behavior of a witness.
Deferent examples of photographic include photos, video, photocopies, x-ray, and other computer generated output and reproductions.
There are a few things required before photographic evidence can be used in court.
Photos should not raise the passions of the jury and should be used only to give a clearer understanding of the events and help the jury find the truth. The photograph must be a true and accurate representation of the matter depicted.
There must be a witness who can testify that the scene depicted or the sounds reproduced are true and accurate. The photographer must give a testimony that the images or recordings are what he claims. The attesting witness may anyone that is familiar with the scene who can verify that the evidence is accurate.
Any camera can be used as long as the photograph is an accurate representation. There is no requirement that the photographer have any particular amount of experience in photography.
However when high tech equipment is evolved like computer generated images or x-ray a expert is required.
Police need to record
The equipment and procedures used
The rationale for each choice and procedure
The conditions at the time the photograph or video was shot
Chain of custody
A witness testifying the accuracy of a photograph is not required if the evidence has been in constant possession of one or more people to show that it is still in the same condition as it was originally.
What is search and seizure? The search and seizure procedure was made a law to allow police and other authorites who have suspesion that a crime has been commited to search all of a persons personal property or home and confiscate anything that is related to evidence of the crime. All most all countries have provisions in the constitutions that provide the public with personal privacy and be free from unreasonable search and seizures. With this law being in place it sometimes requires the police force or attacking agencies to obtain a search warrant before entering the premises. They are allowed to take what they believe will help convict the suspect in the court of law. Although not everything is allowed in the court of law under the exclusioinary rule. If you voluntarly consent to a search the agencies no longer need a search warrant to seize evidence from the crime scene or your personal. With a search warrant usually comes a exigent circumstances which means the officers need to act quickly because evidence maybe in danger of being removeed or destroyed and if that happens your case will not be very strong.
Probable Cause v. Reasonable Suspicion
To determine probable cause, in either a search or arrest, the officer can receive information from a variety of sources, including, a higher ranked officer, a confidential informant, an anonymous telephone call, a reliable person, another officer who is an expert in a certain field, or from his or her own personal observations.
Probable cause to search exists when the circumstances of trustworthy information is known to be believable. If an item subject to seizure is believed to be in a certain place, you only need a fair probability to follow through with a search.
Parallel to probable cause searches are probable cause arrests. For a probable cause arrest to occur an officer only need reasonable caution that the suspect has committed a crime or is committing a crime.
So with this said, to search and arrest on probable cause along is fairly easy because alls that is needed is a fair probability.
Reasonable suspicion is even easier to obtain then that of probable cause. Reasonable suspicion is a lesser standard of probable cause, and does not require as much evidence as probable cause and the officers information doesn’t even need to be reliable. Long story short is that reasonable suspicion is just an officer’s hunch. If an officer thinks something could be in a particular area of someone is about to commit a crime he has enough evidence for reasonable suspicion.
What is stop and frisk?
Stop and frisk is when a law enforcement officer temporarily detain somebody and pat down their outer clothing when there is a reasonable suspicion that a person may be armed and dangerous. It is not necessary for the officer to articulate or identify a specific crime, the only thing the officer has to do is show a ser of factual circumstances exist that would lead a reasonable person to believe that criminal activity is occurring. Reasonable suspicion is one step below probable cause and one step above a hunch.
A frisk is a type of search that requires a lawful stop. A suspect who refuses to answer the officers questions in a stop maybe be providing the officer with sufficient justification to a frisk. A frisk may not be for anything other than a weapon or contraband. How ever if other things are felt like a suspected drug container it may be seized by the officer under the plain feel doctrine. The test for the plain feel is that the items contraband nature be “immediately apparent”.
[[tab Credibility & Impeachment]]
Sadie, Rachel, Mikaela, Michelle