“Admissibility of evidence” refers to evidence that is relevant and competent enough to be formally admitted in the courtroom. A judge will determine whether or not evidence can be used.
Admissible evidence is also known as proper evidence or competent evidence. Basically, evidence that is presented in court must be deemed appropriate for the trial so it’s relevant in the trier of fact’s (the judge’s or jury’s) decision.
During criminal proceedings, both the defendants and prosecutors can present evidence supporting their cases. Each side typically has the chance to review the opposition’s evidence before going to trial. This gives them a chance to object to evidence if they believe it should be excluded. The admission of evidence is governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence.
What Determines Admissibility of Evidence in Court?
For evidence to be admitted at court, it must be:
- Competent and
For evidence to be deemed relevant to the case, it must have a reasonable role in helping to prove or disprove a fact. Admissibility of evidence doesn’t mean the evidence must necessarily make a fact unprovable—but it needs to support its likelihood or unlikelihood. This is also known as “probative value.” Even if a judge deems some evidence relevant, it can be left out of the case if there’s a possibility it will be misleading, confusing, or prejudiced against the jury.
The evidence must also not be confusing, based on rumor (also known as “hearsay”) or unfairly prejudiced. If it’s seen as a waste of time into the facts of the trial, it won’t be admissible. Evidence that follows the traditional legal concept of reliability is considered competent.
Also, the evidence must be material, meaning it’s physical evidence proffered to help prove a fact being disputed in the case.
Four Types of Admissible Evidence
The four main types of evidence that may be admissible in court are:
- Real evidence: evidence actually involved in the incident.
- Demonstrative evidence: evidence used to illustrate or enhance, such as an image to support testimony or chart to explain a complicated matter.
- Documentary evidence like tape recordings, pictures, printed emails, or videos.
- Testimonial evidence: where someone takes the stand and testifies, answering questions related to the case.
Written statements, witness testimony, digital evidence, clothing or weapons used in committing an offense, and blood test results are all examples that can fall under admissibility of evidence.
There are situations where testimonial evidence is not inadmissible, so it depends on the details of each. For example, if a witness testifies about statements that weren’t made under oath, it can be considered hearsay evidence and would not generally be competent.
What Happens If Evidence is Admissible?
When a judge or jury has determined the admissibility of evidence as relevant, they will decide how much weight the evidence should be given in the case.