Admitting evidence in a jury trial can be a very tricky task. There are a lot of rules and regulations that you must adhere to in order to get evidence submitted in a trial. Not only are there a lot of different rules and regulations to submitting evidence, but you want to be strategic as to what and how you admit evidence. For example, some evidence could be really damaging to a witness on the stand, however, your attorney might not go into it because that would open the door for other, relevant evidence that is exceptionally damaging to you and the case you are fighting in a trial. In this post, we will discuss some of these various rules of evidence.
Rules of Evidence
1) If evidence is admissible for one purpose, is it necessarily admissible for any and all purposes?
No, according to the doctrine of “limited admissibility,” evidence may be admitted for one purpose without being admissible for another purpose. An example of that is showing insurance coverage to show ownership but not to show the ability to pay.
2)What are the requirements for establishing relevance?
There are two different requirements to show relevance: probativity and materiality. For evidence to be relevant, it must be probative of a fact that is material to the case. Evidence is probative if it makes the existence of any fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. Relevant evidence is admissible unless its purpose is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to the defendant or other bad effects.
3)On what ground may relevant evidence be excluded?
There is a host of different exceptions, they go to provide a sort of “balance” to the probative nature of the evidence and a fair trial to the defendant. In other words, evidence that is so damaging that it would prevent the defendant from having a fair trial. This also includes information that may confuse, mislead, waste time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. This kind of evidence also includes inflammatory evidence in criminal cases, for example, gruesome photos that do not help the jury understand the facts of the case.
4) If a piece of evidence is relevant, is it necessarily admissible?
No, evidence must not only be relevant bit must also clear additional obstacles before it will be admissible. However, if a piece of evidence is irrelevant, it is always inadmissible. Now, this is an interesting fact. Too often do we have people come into our office with a million different types of evidence that they want to submit at trial. We have to explain to our clients that a lot of the evidence that they this is relevant, really isn’t. The only kind of evidence that we are interested in is direct evidence that shows you either did do something, or didn’t do something, or witness evidence where the witness observed the question or act being alleged. It does nothing to go in with pages and pages of evidence showing something that doesn’t relate to the ACT in question.
5) Must each piece of evidence be sufficient by itself to justify a verdict to be deemed relevant?
No, a piece of evidence is relevant is it has “any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” In essence, if the evidence shows that something did happen or didn’t happen, and that could not have been proved without the evidence is deemed relevant. Think of it like a brick wall; a piece of evidence needs only to be a brick in the wall, not the whole wall.
Now, these are only a few of many many rules of evidence. If you are facing a trial, make sure that your attorney discusses these issues with you. If you think that you have really important information, but your attorney doesn’t think that the court will accept it, listen to your attorney. They know how to present information and what evidence is important.
M. Colin Bresee is an experienced trial attorney. He has not only prosecuted trials but has also defended many people at a trail. Colin knows the ins and outs of a court room, let him defend you at your trial.
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By Shannon Lynch