The Rules of Using Evidence
In a criminal trial, both the prosecution and the defense have a chance to introduce evidence in the case. The evidence helps inform the judge or jury's decision. Only certain things can be introduced as evidence in a criminal trial, and the evidence must adhere to the rules of evidence set forth by the California criminal courts. These are collectively called the California Code of Evidence.
Don't assume anything can be used as evidence, and certainly, never assume a piece of evidence can help you. In fact, the opposite is sometimes true. That being said, it is not a good idea to try to introduce evidence in your trial without the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney. While you should definitely consult with a criminal defense attorney if you are heading to trial, here are some things you should know about introducing evidence that will help guide your discussion with an attorney.
If you are heading to trial, you will need to go through what is called the discovery phase. During this time, you and the prosecution gather evidence and information to use in the case. You only have a limited amount of time in which to obtain discovery, but it is usually sufficient time to do things like subpoena witnesses and obtain copies and records. Depending on the complexity of the case, this process can be time-consuming and tedious, but it also one of the most important steps to trial.
What Can Be Used as Evidence?
Evidence can come in many forms. Some common forms of evidence include:
Testimony: You may need a witness to provide testimony in court. The court will typically allow you, people who have information relevant to the case, people who have authority or ownership over certain key pieces of evidence, such as record keepers, and experts who may be able to testify to a certain fact provide testimony.
Depositions: These are written or oral testimonies given under oath and in front of a court reporter who transcribes the testimony for use in the case. You can depose a witness who is unable to appear in court at your trial.
Records and Copies: Medical records, certain case records, copies of surveillance footage, photographs, and other documents can be used as evidence in criminal trials. The records or copies must be obtained according to the rules of evidence, and some pieces of information may be redacted (i.e. removed or blacked out) in the documents to protect certain individuals.
If you cannot get a piece of evidence you believe will be helpful for your case, you may be able to subpoena a witness to go to court or be deposed or file a subpoena duces tecum to get copies of documents. Once you have gathered your pieces of evidence, make several copies of each piece.
Consult with a knowledgeable California criminal defense attorney with experience in criminal trials if you have questions about evidence. Evidence could make or break your case, and so you should take full advantage of any opportunity you have to present information to the court that may help the judge or jury make an informed decision. An attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and advise you on what pieces of evidence may be helpful. If you involve an attorney early enough, he or she can help you preserve certain pieces of evidence that may not be obtainable later on, such as an account from an eyewitness or images of injuries that may heal before trial. Small details such as these can make a big difference in your case, so you should speak with an attorney as soon as you decide to go to trial. This is the only way for you to know your rights are defended and you can maximize your chances of an acquittal.
Are you heading to trial? If so, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for expert counsel. Experienced in criminal trials, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your rights and help you fight your charges. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Christopher Martens will aggressively defend your rights at trial and help you get the outcome you want. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.