Courtroom evidence typically includes a wide array of different types of admissible evidence that a judge presiding over a civil or criminal case has admitted into evidence for a particular trial. Admissible evidence usually governs types of evidence that can be allowed into evidence for a trial, but they may be refused by a judge. Also, just because evidence is admissible does not mean it will definitely be allowed and used during trial. Some common examples of types of courtroom evidence include character evidence, exculpatory evidence, inculpatory evidence, circumstantial evidence, and demonstrative evidence.
Character evidence refers to different types of evidence that indicate or demonstrate certain character qualities of a person involved in a trial. This type of courtroom evidence is often used to indicate that a person is either trustworthy or untrustworthy and to this end it is commonly used to discredit a witness. Character evidence cannot typically be used, however, to demonstrate that a person acted in a way based upon the character demonstrated in that evidence. So character evidence indicating that a person may have lenient views regarding theft cannot usually be used to then indicate that he or she committed theft.
Exculpatory evidence is a type of courtroom evidence used to attempt to prove or support a person’s innocence during a legal hearing. This type of evidence is typically used to demonstrate that a defendant had no motive or did not demonstrate any intent to commit a criminal act. Inculpatory evidence, on the other hand, is evidence that indicates a person’s guilt or involvement in a crime and is usually used to damage a defendant’s claims. Circumstantial evidence is a type of evidence that does not directly demonstrate that a person committed a crime, but serves to provide support in a more tangential way.
For example, fingerprints of a defendant at a crime scene do not directly indicate that the person committed a crime, but by establishing that the defendant was there, it helps support the claims of the prosecution. Though this type of courtroom evidence may be considered weaker than direct evidence, which directly indicates a person’s involvement in a crime, circumstantial courtroom evidence is often used in criminal and civil cases. Additional corroborative evidence, which is evidence that supports other evidence, is typically used to strengthen circumstantial evidence in a case.
Demonstrative evidence is a type of courtroom evidence that is not direct evidence or circumstantial evidence gathered at a crime scene, but is used to demonstrate an idea or illustrate a point. This type of evidence includes things like visual aids, graphs, crime scene pictures, and computer re-creations to help a judge and jury better understand the nature of a crime or crime scene. Demonstrative evidence should typically be helpful but not serve to bias the jury or otherwise promote an agenda other than to help explain things.