Can You Win a Case with Evidence?
2 months ago by Brian
When you hire a criminal defense attorney, it’s their job to determine what evidence is admissible, analyze how different pieces of evidence interact, and decide which evidence is most impactful.
They present this evidence in a strategic manner – all of which challenges the prosecutors evidence against you and helps a judge or jury to decide your fate. As a result, building a strong, evidence-based case is the key to success in the courtroom with help from a Woodbury, MN criminal defense lawyer.
What Is Legal Evidence?
For a case to hold up in court, prosecutors and defense attorneys must present valid and legally obtained evidence.
What Constitutes Legal Evidence?
Evidence must meet certain standards to be admissible in court. It must be:
- Relevant – directly related to the charges or claims in the case. Irrelevant or overly prejudicial evidence is excluded.
- Reliable – The evidence must come from a dependable source and must be supported by other evidence. Hearsay or speculation is usually not allowed.
- Legally obtained information – follows proper legal procedures for collection and handling. Evidence obtained illegally through coercion, deception, or without a warrant is excluded.
Establishing the Burden of Proof: The Evidence of the Prosecution
Prosecutors have the burden of proof and must present enough compelling evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Types of evidence include:
- Physical evidence: DNA, fingerprints, weapons, etc.
- Eyewitness testimony: Accounts from people who directly observed events.
- Expert testimony: Analysis and opinions from professionals in a particular field of expertise.
- Records: Documents like receipts, logs, emails, texts, and audio/video recordings.
- Confessions: Statements directly from the defendant admitting guilt. Confessions must be given voluntarily to be admissible.
Reasonable Doubt: What the Defense Must Show
For the defense, the key is presenting reasonable doubt. Defense attorneys will try to discredit the prosecution’s evidence through cross-examination, challenging its validity, or claiming that the evidence was obtained improperly. They may also provide alibis or other evidence supporting the defendant’s innocence.
In the end, it is up to the jury to weigh all the legally obtained and admissible evidence presented by both sides to determine the truth and reach a fair verdict.
How Prosecutors Build a Case Using Evidence
The prosecutor in a criminal defense case must show the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To accomplish this, they must rely heavily on specific pieces of evidence, each of which is defined more in depth below.
Physical evidence includes DNA, fingerprints, weapons, and other tangible items that directly link the defendant to the crime. For example, DNA from blood or skin cells at the crime scene may match the defendant’s, or fingerprints on a murder weapon may be identified as the defendant’s.
Eyewitness accounts of events can be extremely compelling evidence. Credible witnesses who can identify the defendant as the perpetrator, provide details about their observations, and withstand cross-examination are vital to proving a prosecutor’s case. Witness testimony is even more powerful when multiple witnesses corroborate the same sequence of events.
Security camera footage, online communications, and geolocation data from mobile devices are increasingly used as evidence in trials. Surveillance videos that capture the defendant in the act of committing a crime are very persuasive for jurors. Records of threatening messages or other communications between the defendant and victim may also go against a defendant’s.
Motive and Opportunity
To convince a jury of a defendant’s guilt, a prosecutor must establish motive and opportunity. Evidence of a conflict between the defendant and victim, financial troubles, or other personal issues may all help establish a motive.
By presenting credible evidence from multiple sources, with both direct and circumstantial evidence, prosecutors can construct a case to try to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. However, defendants have the right to defend against the prosecutor’s case, and having the right defense representation is critical.
How Defense Attorneys Counter the Prosecution’s Evidence
A defense attorney refutes the prosecution’s evidence to establish reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury and to secure an acquittal for their client. There are several effective ways to counter the evidence presented by the prosecution.
Challenging the Reliability and Credibility of Witnesses
The prosecution’s witnesses are not always reliable. Eyewitness testimony can be affected by factors like stress, poor visibility, short exposure to the scene of the crime, and racial biases.
A defense attorney can impeach a witness by exposing their prejudices, inconsistencies in their testimony, or by giving reasons why their perception or memory may have been flawed during an assault or a drug crime.
Presenting Alternative Theories
A criminal defense lawyer may present plausible alternative theories that support the evidence for reasonable doubt. For example, if a client is accused of murder, their lawyer might introduce other suspects – or individuals who may have had more of a motive and opportunity.
A lawyer might also argue that a murder may have been accidental or the result of natural causes. Introducing alternative possibilities, especially those supported by expert testimony or physical evidence, creates reasonable doubt.
Challenging the Physical Evidence
Again, the prosecution will often present physical evidence like DNA, fingerprints, or murder weapons – all pointing to a client’s guilt. However, this evidence is open to interpretation and may not be as conclusive as the prosecution argues.
A defense attorney may challenge the prosecutor’s evidence by questioning whether it was contaminated or mishandled or by presenting expert witnesses to refute the prosecution’s conclusions.
For instance, DNA or fingerprint evidence may match a defendant’s but may not necessarily prove they committed the crime.
Questioning the Police Investigation
Showing flaws in the police investigation, like failure to pursue other leads or suspects, can undermine the prosecution’s case. A defense attorney may argue that specific evidence was overlooked, mishandled, or misinterpreted due to “tunnel vision,” where police focused on one person instead of other possibilities.
Attacking the competence and objectivity of the investigation plants seeds of doubt – the types of seeds that will weaken the significance of the prosecution’s evidence.
Types of Evidence That Are Inadmissible in Court
Evidence is the foundation of any legal case, but not all evidence presented in court is actually admissible. Certain types of evidence may be excluded by the judge for legal reasons and purposes.
Hearsay evidence refers to an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of an asserted legal matter or claim. In other words, it is secondhand information that cannot be substantiated. Hearsay is generally inadmissible unless it falls under one of a couple of exemptions, like an excited utterance after a startling event or a declaration against interest.
Evidence that provokes an emotional rather than rational reaction from the jury may be excluded as unfairly prejudicial. Graphic photos, inflammatory language, and testimony about a defendant’s character are examples of potentially prejudicial evidence.
The judge determines whether the probative value of the evidence outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice.
Illegally Obtained Evidence
Evidence that was obtained through unlawful means, such as an unlawful search or coerced confession, may be suppressed and excluded from trial. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination. Illegally obtained evidence undermines these constitutional rights.
For evidence to be admissible, it must be relevant to a fact at issue in the case. Evidence that does not make the existence of a fact more or less probable is irrelevant and typically is excluded. Exceptions may apply for evidence that is relevant for other purposes, such as proving witness bias or impeachment.
An attorney handling evidence in a legal case has an obligation to act ethically. Their role is to advocate for their client while upholding the principles of fairness and justice. Therefore, they must follow specific guidelines.
Preserving the Integrity of Evidence
It is critical that any evidence is properly handled, stored, and maintained so its integrity is preserved. Mishandling or tampering with evidence compromises a legal case and reflects poorly on a law firm and its legal team. Lawyers must follow the rules of evidence and the chain of custody process to avoid problems – such as calling the evidence into question or having it thrown out of court.
Creating or hiding evidence to gain an advantage is unethical and illegal. Therefore, lawyers must present all relevant evidence to the court so the truth can be determined and established.
Verifying Questionable Evidence
Lawyers must research the accuracy and source of any evidence that seems implausible or questionable. Relying on faulty or misleading evidence can seriously undermine a case if it is shown to be incorrect.
Attorneys have a duty to keep the confidence of their clients. Therefore, they are not allowed, professionally, to disclose privileged information about their client or their legal strategy to the opposing party.
They must be careful, as well, about revealing confidential information when speaking with witnesses or speaking in open court.
Organizing the Evidence
Whether the lawyer is a prosecutor or defense counsel, they must review all the evidence for their case thoroughly. This means examining all documents, images, videos, witness statements, and audio recordings. By managing this material, they can determine if they need to fill in any gaps or need to investigate the case further.
Next, a lawyer needs to determine the relevance and admissibility of the evidence. They must show how each piece of evidence specifically proves their arguments in their case. They must only use items that follow the rules of evidence with respect to admissibility.
Next, a lawyer needs to lay out the sequence of events and tie the relationships of the people and places in a case. They need to build a coherent story – or an account that makes sense to the jury. Therefore, the evidence presented must flow logically. Determining the key facts of the case will help a lawyer establish their story.
Lawyers must also view the evidence objectively from the other attorney’s perspective. By taking this stance, they can anticipate any objections that may be raised so they can proficiently argue their case. In these circumstances, it helps to have alternative evidence ready – just in case the evidence they have is disallowed.
It also helps to create images of complicated evidentiary information. Therefore, an attorney may use a chart, map, diagram, or timeline to prove their point in a criminal case. This makes certain factors of the case easier to understand.
Lawyers can make monotonous or dry evidence more interesting by using multimedia as well.
Lawyers strengthen the evidence in their cases by asking for feedback from colleagues. Through preparation and revision, they can overcome major challenges at trial.
Call a Criminal Defense Lawyer to Argue Your Case Today
Do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Minnesota? If so, call JS Defense. Call for a free legal consultation and schedule an appointment today.
*To know all about evidence in a DWI case please read this blog.