The Role Of Evidence In Criminal Cases – What You Need To Know


When you are charged with a crime, your freedom and reputation are on the line. Criminal penalties are meant to punish, so the laws require prosecutors to meet a high burden of proof in order to get a conviction.

The information used to prove a crime is called evidence and there are rules governing what can be considered evidence and how evidence can be collected. The rules are designed to make sure persons accused of crimes don’t get wrongfully convicted.

If the evidence rules are not followed, or the available evidence cannot meet the standard necessary for a conviction, criminal penalties may not be imposed.

Types of Evidence in a Criminal Case

Laws define the conduct considered criminal, and they also establish the elements that must be proven in order to hold someone accountable for committing a crime. There must be sufficient evidence to prove each element.

The information that can be used as evidence in a criminal case includes:

  • Witness testimony
  • Documents
  • Images
  • Physical objects

Evidence must be ‘admitted’ before it can be considered as proof of a crime. In order to be admissible, evidence must be relevant. The Colorado Rules of Evidence define relevant evidence as:

‘evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.’

Objections to the Admission of Evidence

Relevance is just the first hurdle evidence must get over before it can be used in a criminal prosecution. Legal objections can be made to relevant evidence that will disqualify it from being admitted.

Relevant evidence may be excluded for any of the following reasons:

  • Likely to cause unfair prejudice
  • Confuses the issues
  • Misleading
  • Unduly delays the proceedings
  • Waste of time
  • Repetitive

Hearsay

Hearsay is a common objection to the admission of evidence. In criminal proceedings, the hearsay objection can be used when a prosecutor attempts to admit evidence that cannot be independently verified by the person accused of the crime.

An example of hearsay would be the testimony of a witness describing what he heard from another person who is not available to be questioned as to the truth of the witness’s account. There are certain types of hearsay evidence that are not excluded because they are considered to be reliable even if the creator of the evidence is not available.

Evidence Must Meet the Required Burden of Proof

It is up to the prosecution to present enough admissible evidence to convince a jury ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that the person accused of a crime should be convicted. According to the latest version of the Colorado Supreme Court’s Model Jury Instructions for criminal cases, the prosecutor’s burden requires proving there is more than a high probability of guilt but less than an absolute certainty.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt must leave jurors ‘firmly convinced’ of guilt. Reasonable doubt means there is a real possibility the person accused is not guilty. If a jury concludes there is reasonable doubt as to any element of the crime charged it must return a verdict of not guilty.

Defend Criminal Charges with Confidence

Being accused of a crime is no joke and can be a huge disruption in your life. But accusations don’t mean convictions. A strong defense can get the charges reduced or even dismissed.

Serving the communities of Loveland, Fort Collins, and Greeley, the Colorado criminal defense attorney at The Harrell Law Firm, PLLC can help you minimize the impact of criminal charges and get back to your life as quickly as possible. Call 970-791-2006 or contact The Harrell Law Firm, PLLC for a free 30-minute consultation.