Circumstantial evidence is proof that was inferred from the fact in question. In criminal case trials, the prosecution commonly relies on this proof. Criminal defense attorneys commonly use one of two strategies. A qualified criminal attorney can either cast doubt on the circumstantial proof itself or prove that there is reasonable doubt as to whether the accused is actually guilty.
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in the state of California, you’ll want an experienced attorney to analyze your case as well as the direct and circumstantial evidence used to then craft a strong defense to prove your innocence.
The Best Defense Strategies to Use in Criminal Cases
A defense attorney can make a good defense in a criminal case when a prosecutor presents circumstantial evidence in court or when they do so as the only proof of guilt. The strongest defense strategies nullify the idea that the defendant is guilty of committing the crime beyond all reasonable doubt.
A common defense strategy to use against circumstantial evidence is when the lawyer shows that the proof supports general conclusions and as a result, these conclusions are different than those alleging guilt:
For example, if a woman is suspected of killing a loved one, and if a neighbor were to notice the woman entering the loved one’s home the night the individual died, the neighbor’s testimony could be used as circumstantial evidence. The woman’s defense attorney would then be able to argue that such evidence supports another conclusion and that she was in the house that evening for a different reason altogether.
The second strategy a criminal defense attorney can make is to show that the evidence is not reliable:
For example, if a man is charged with trespassing onto another individual’s property, the prosecutor may use the testimony from a witness that saw someone of the man’s shape and size on the other individual’s land. This circumstantial evidence becomes even more tenuous because this testimony comes from a person with terrible eyesight. A defense attorney could then urge for the charges to be dropped because the proof of guilt is unreliable.
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The Difference Between Circumstantial and Direct Evidence
Both direct and circumstantial evidence are considered legitimate forms of proof in federal and state courts. Circumstantial proof does not directly prove a key fact. Rather, from this type of evidence, a person can then reasonably conclude that something else happened. Examples of this in court would be:
- Eyewitness testimony that someone was seen leaving the scene of a crime
- Multiple individuals’ fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime including the defendants’
- Threatening messages sent by the defendant to the person who was later assaulted
- The defendant’s browser history showing how he or she searched for information later found out to be similar to how the victim was injured
Direct evidence, on the other hand, clearly demonstrates the defendant committed a crime. This proof undoubtedly reveals that the person who committed the alleged offense is, beyond all reasonable doubt, guilty. Examples of direct evidence include:
- Footage from a security camera
- The defendant’s fingerprints on the murder weapon
- Test results that show a bullet was fired by a specific firearm
- An audio recording of the defendant’s confession
- Eyewitness testimony that the defendant was seen committing the crime
Criminal Convictions with Only Circumstantial Evidence
Criminal law allows prosecutors to convict a defendant with only circumstantial proof. This evidence is not considered to be any less genuine than direct proof. The prosecutor can use this information to corroborate or refute the:
- Pieces of a crime
- Presence of specific acts or crimes
- Defendant’s mental state
It’s important to have a qualified attorney by your side who is familiar with creating a strong defense and knows state laws because there are some crimes that require the prosecution to prove that the defendant committed a certain act and did so with specific intent or mental state.
Some examples of these offenses are:
- Murder, in which the prosecutor must prove the defendant acted with “malice aforethought”
- Burglary, in which the defendant would have needed to have intended to commit a higher stakes crime such as a felony or theft
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Presenting Circumstantial Evidence in Court
In both criminal and civil California and federal courts, circumstantial evidence can be used. State law gives this evidence the same weight as any other type of proof; however, a judge is required to inform the jury of the meaning of the types of evidence when a prosecutor uses circumstantial evidence.
Your California criminal defense attorney can try to undermine the circumstantial evidence if the facts cannot be proven. It can also be noted that the circumstantial evidence has two reasonable conclusions, including one where the defendant is innocent.
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A Motion to Suppress Evidence
Your guilt is not dictated by the presence of circumstantial evidence. Certain state and federal laws and procedures must be followed to use evidence in court. If your rights have been violated in regards to evidence, a California criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress the evidence with the court to get it thrown out.
Some reasons why evidence may be suppressed by the court include:
- Unlawful Search and Seizure. You are protected by the Fourth Amendment, which means police must have a probable cause or search warrant to say that a crime has been committed for them to be able to search your property and collect evidence. If the authorities did not have sufficient grounds, your lawyer can make this defense in court.
- Chain of Custody. There is a standard procedure that evidence must go through from when it’s collected by police officers to when it’s presented in court by the prosecution. The evidence can be dismissed if there is a disruption in this chain at any time.
- Failure to Read Miranda Rights. When you were arrested, if you gave any statements when you were unaware you had the right to remain silent, that anything you said could be used against you in court, or that you have the right to an attorney, this can be thrown out of court as it’s not admissible.
Simmrin Law’s Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Answer Your Questions Today
For more information about how a legal representative can fight back against circumstantial evidence, contact the qualified criminal defense attorneys at Simmrin Law Group. There may be additional pieces of evidence specific to your case that could require additional time and attention.
Criminal charges can have a very serious impact on a person’s life and it’s important you have a legal team dedicated to fighting for your rights and helping you avoid penalties like high fees and jail time. Get started today with a free consultation with a California attorney.