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What are the Different Types of Circumstantial Evidence?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 16, 2024
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Circumstantial evidence is sometimes referred to as indirect evidence. This evidence often just strongly suggests a certain fact, but does not completely prove it. Like direct evidence, there are several types of circumstantial evidence. Threatening comments and differential treatment prior to a crime are typically considered to be circumstantial evidence, along with a suspect's behavior after a crime. Additionally, witnesses and forensic evidence are also sometimes considered to be circumstantial.

Discriminatory or threatening comments uttered toward an individual before a crime is committed is one common type of circumstantial evidence. This can include such things as slanderous comments or threats uttered to either the victim or a third party. An individual who declared he wanted to kill a person just one week before that person's murder, for example, may be investigators' number one suspect. Simply uttering these words, however, does not prove that he murdered the victim. This evidence is circumstantial, since these words may have simply been uttered in anger, with no intention of actually following through.

Another type of circumstantial evidence deals with how a victim was treated prior to a crime. An individual who treated an assault victim poorly, for example, may be investigated by police. A person who seemed obsessed with or stalked a woman may also be investigated for her rape. Although these individuals both treated the victims differently than other people, this evidence is considered circumstantial.

The way a certain individual, or suspect, acts after a crime is committed is another example of circumstantial evidence. A good example of this is the individual who spends an unusually large amount of money after a robbery. Another example involves a suspect who seems overly nervous while being questioned after a murder. This evidence is circumstantial, since he may be nervous because he committed the crime, but he also may be nervous simply because he is being questioned for a heinous crime.

Eye witness accounts are sometimes considered to be circumstantial evidence as well. A witness who sees a suspect standing over a victim with a murder weapon, although seemingly damning evidence, is considered to be circumstantial evidence, for example. The suspect could have merely stumbled upon the scene and accidentally picked up the weapon. Corroborating evidence, such as another witness who saw him commit the crime, would often be needed to get a conviction.

Although many people believe that forensic evidence is direct evidence, it is often thought of as circumstantial evidence. Blood analysis, DNA analysis, and fingerprinting can be helpful to catching the perpetrator of the crime. It often needs other corroborating evidence, however, to support it.

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