For evidence to be used in deciding a case, it has to first be approved by a judge. This is called 'admissible evidence', which is explained in this piece of writing, with its legal definition, characteristics, and examples.
Did You Know?
'Fruit of the poisonous tree' refers to evidence that is inadmissible, because it was obtained by illegal methods. It is based on the theory that since the tree (source of evidence) is poisonous, its fruit (evidence obtained from source) will also be so.
In a court dispute, there are two parties to the case - the person who has filed the case, called the plaintiff, and the person against whom it is filed, called the defendant. Either party can introduce certain proof in the court, which weakens the position of the opposite party. Such proof offered in a court is called evidence.
Evidence can be of several types. It can be an object found on the crime scene, called real/material evidence. It can be a document containing text in some language, called documentary evidence.
Testimonial evidence is when a party to the case brings forth a witness who gives a spoken statement or 'testimony' against the other party.
Any evidence cannot simply be offered in a court. It has to first be presented to the judge, who decides if it will help in establishing justice.
This is important, since the right to introduce an evidence may be misused by a party to a case to simply waste the time of the court or unfairly prejudice the jury. The concept of admissible evidence explains this further.
What Does 'Admissible Evidence' Mean?
Any evidence that a judge uses to reach a decision in a specific case, because it is related to the facts at hand and does not unfairly affect the judgment, is called admissible evidence.
Rules of Admissible Evidence
► The evidence should be relevant, i.e., it should either prove or disprove some point of the case, or, at least increase or decrease the likelihood of it happening. Relevant evidence is considered admissible, while irrelevant evidence is not.
► The evidence offered should be from a reliable source. True for documentary evidence, where the authenticity of the document should be proven. When a party, wants a witness to give testimony, the credibility of the witness must be proven.
► The evidence offered should not confuse the proceedings, i.e., divert attention from the facts of the case.
► Any evidence which wastes the time of the court may not be allowed.
► Evidence which tries to question someone's character or some traits of his/her character may not be allowed, unless the defendant introduces this point first.
► Any evidence collected by authorities without a valid search warrant is inadmissible.
► Statements made by an individual outside court who is not available for questioning is called hearsay, and is inadmissible evidence.
► Evidence against a party coming from someone who was supposed to keep it confidential is not admissible. Examples include evidence given by an attorney against his client, a doctor against his patient, and one spouse against another.
► The evidence should not provoke or cause feelings of outrage among the jury, since this can influence their judgment.
Admissible Evidence: Examples
❒ In a case where a roofer accuses his client of defaulting on his bills, the bill sent to the client would be admissible evidence, while a testimony that the defendant was involved in shoplifting would not (irrelevant).
❒ In a child sexual abuse case, evidence showing that the defendant is homosexual makes little difference to the offense (misleading), as the main point here is that the victim was a minor, not his/her gender.
❒ Witness B's testimony against defendant C, based on something that a certain individual A told her outside court would be invalid evidence (hearsay).
❒ Gory photos of a crime scene, or photos of children beside a corpse would not be valid evidence, as it may cause feelings of outrage among the jury.
❒ In a criminal trial involving a stabbing, the murder weapon (knife) found on the crime scene is valid evidence, while evidence about the color of drapes in the room where the crime occurred is irrelevant.
To sum up, any evidence which is relevant to the case, reliable, and does not provoke, waste time, confuse, come from a privileged source, or involve hearsay, is considered admissible in a court of law.