When a criminal law attorney reviews a case, they have to consider what the state will present as evidence. If you're a client facing criminal charges, though, you may wonder what counts as evidence? Can a prosecutor throw anything they want at you?
Fortunately, the American system doesn't allow prosecutors to commit random and reckless attacks against defendants. However, there is a process for determining what evidence will find its way into court. Let's look at how that process works and what might serve as evidence against a defendant.
Nothing counts as evidence until it does through the discovery process. In the world of attorney services, discovery is usually a big deal in a case. The discovery process is a legal requirement. The judge presiding over the case will order both sides to present each other with the list of evidence and witnesses for the case.
If anyone wants to present an item in a hearing or at trial, they have to declare it to the court. The judge then will inform the other side of the existence of the alleged evidence. Likewise, the court will provide the non-discovering side with time to examine the items in terms of what they are, how they were found, and how parties have handled them since.
Suppose a prosecutor wants to enter a gun as evidence in a robbery case. The prosecution has to file a motion for the court to accept the evidence. This allows the judge to ask what it is, how the prosecution came by it, and whether it's relevant.
Similarly, the defense can question the evidence and move for the court to exclude it. Perhaps the police can't prove the entire chain of custody on the evidence tracing it back to the scene of the alleged crime. A defense lawyer will tell the court they believe there's a problem. The judge will ask the prosecution for an explanation. If the judge is happy with the prosecutor's arguments, the court will likely admit the evidence. If not, the judge will probably exclude it, meaning it won't be part of the case.
Setting up Possible Appeals
A common defense strategy, especially in cases where a defendant is facing serious jail time, is to lay a trail of breadcrumbs with motions. Perhaps the judge doesn't exclude a piece of evidence. Worse, the evidence convinces a jury to convict. Although this is far from the best outcome, it leaves the door open to an appeal. The defendant can ask a higher court to review whether the evidence ever was admissible.
For more information on the criminal law process, contact a criminal law attorney near you.