California law clearly defines what evidence can be presented in court. It governs several potential factors, including how the evidence is collected, how the chain of evidence is maintained, and even what evidence relates directly to the case. If the other side violates those rules of evidence, your attorney may have that evidence stricken from the record, making it easier for you to establish your side in the case.
Ensuring that evidence is presented correctly in the courtroom can also prove essential. Even if you have evidence stricken from the record, if it has already been presented, it can be difficult to strike it from the jury’s mind entirely. A criminal defense lawyer can help establish the proper presentation of evidence in your criminal case.
Rule #1: Reliability
To establish that evidence can be presented in a California court, it must come from a reliable and trustworthy source. If the evidence is unreliable—if it comes from a source that has likely been altered or cannot be trusted—it cannot be entered into the record.
Reliability can be essential to many types of trials. You do not want evidence entered into the record that directly goes against the way events played out.
For example, suppose that you have records from a company known to alter and change its records behind the scenes. Those records might be inadmissible in court because of their lack of reliability.
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Rule #2: Character Evidence
Under California law, evidence that shows that a person acted according to their character is not admissible. While evidence can be entered into the record that shows that a particular individual has a habit of engaging in certain behaviors—for example, that the defendant has been convicted of a specific crime in the past—that evidence should not be used to establish the person’s character or likelihood of committing a specific type of crime.
For example, suppose that Sarah has a habit of shoplifting. She is accused of assault. Because her shoplifting does not pertain to the assault case, it likely cannot be entered as character evidence.
Rule #3: Witnesses
Having the proper witnesses can prove critical to a court case. A witness can help serve as firsthand testimony of precisely what occurred at a specific time. In some court cases, you may also need to bring in expert witnesses to testify about particular elements of a case. For example, a doctor might testify about a patient’s medical status or capability.
There are two key things to keep in mind when considering witnesses.
California law dictates that witnesses cannot be called to testify if the jury cannot understand them or if they cannot understand their duty as a witness—namely, to tell the truth about the situation as they witnessed it.
In addition to being mentally competent to act as a witness, witnesses must also have the qualifications necessary to speak about a specific event or element of testimony. An eyewitness would be qualified to talk about their observations regarding a crime but might not have the skills to, for example, determine whether the defendant was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident unless the witness had some experience that would provide them with the ability to speak about those factors.
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Rule #4: Hearsay
“Hearsay” includes anything that a witness “knows” only because someone else told the witness about the event. For example, suppose John witnessed a robbery at the grocery store, and he went home and told his wife about it.
His wife could not testify on the stand about the robbery on the grounds of what John told her since she did not witness the events herself and has only his word on it.
Hearsay does not necessarily apply in some cases, including cases in which it works against the speaker’s self-interest, statements made by a dying person about the crime or other circumstances that led to their death, or business and public records. In addition, some comments about history or reputation may not be considered hearsay.
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Rule #5: Prejudicial or Misleading Evidence
Evidence Code 352 EC lays out the exclusion of any evidence that might be considered prejudicial against the defendant or take up unnecessary time in courtroom proceedings. This statute notes that evidence should not be entered into the record that has the potential to confuse the issue.
Evidence Code 352 EC helps prevent muddying the waters in the courtroom. It ensures that the presented evidence does not take up unnecessary time or lead to outrageous conclusions that do not fit the other evidence. It can also help prevent the other side from misleading the jury.
Rule #6: Collection of Evidence
In addition to the other statutes laid out by California law, any evidence presented in a California court must be legally collected. Federal procedures layout how evidence must be collected in order to ensure that it is accurate. Those guidelines also explain how the chain of evidence must be preserved to ensure its accuracy.
Any time the chain of evidence is broken, including when the evidence was not properly secured or someone else could have tampered with it. You may have the right to have that evidence removed from your hearing.
A Lawyer Can Help Ensure the Correct Use of Evidence in Your Case
Presenting evidence can prove essential to any case. If your proof is presented incorrectly or unfairly, or if illegal evidence is entered into the record, you may find it more difficult to prove your innocence or establish your rights.
A lawyer can help ensure that evidence is presented correctly and that there are no violations of evidence rules of admissibility as you proceed with your case. Contact Simmrin Law Group to learn more about your rights in any case, including what evidence might not be admissible.