In a Florida criminal trial, both the prosecution and the defense use evidence to help build a picture of their version of events. Although all evidence is intended to prove a fact, not all evidence is the same. What follows is a discussion of the various types of evidence and what you need to know about evidence if you find yourself on trial in the state of Florida.
Evidence is generally divided into four categories:
documentary evidence, and
Although each type of evidence may be used in a trial, the persuasive value of a particular type of evidence may be more or less than evidence in another category. Ultimately, what evidence is most persuasive is a question left to the finder of fact, whom in most cases is the jury.
Also known as physical evidence, real evidence is items involved in the alleged crime that can be touched and introduced to the jury in person at trial. Real evidence is typically brought into trial because it either proves or disproves some fact at trial.
For real evidence to be used at trial, the side introducing it must lay a foundation to show that it is
Typically such evidence includes a weapon, clothing, fingerprints, or contraband. This type of evidence is usually considered the most persuasive.
Diagrams, charts, models and the like fall under the category of demonstrative evidence. The purpose of demonstrative evidence is to show how the testimony of a witness in a trial happened. In order to be admissible at trial, demonstrative evidence must be an accurate reflection of the witness’s testimony and it must be probative more than it is prejudicial.
Records, letters, legal documents, and the like are considered documentary evidence. Documentary evidence may arise from many different sources, but it must also be relevant to the case at hand to be allowed to be introduced into evidence at trial. Documentary evidence is also introduced at trial by a witness.
Taking the stand at trial and telling what you know about the situation is known as testimonial evidence. A witness must first be placed under oath, which means that they promise or swear to tell the entire truth about what they know or have seen. If a witness gives testimony that is later found to be false while under oath, that witness may be liable for perjury.
When a witness gives testimonial evidence, it is done via a direct examination from the party that is bringing in the witness. Once the party bringing the witness is done asking questions, the opposite party is allowed to cross-examine the witness using their own questions.
Questions asked and answers given as testimonial evidence may be objected to by the other party for various reasons, including lack of relevance to the case or giving an answer to the question that doesn’t actually answer the question that was asked. When one side makes an objection to a portion of the testimony, the judge must then determine whether he or she agrees with the objection. If the judge disagrees with the objection, that side may challenge that decision in a later appeal.