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The Role of Evidence in California Criminal Trials

The Role of Evidence in California Criminal Trials

The Role of Evidence in California Criminal Trials

The police have arrested you, the judge has set bail, and you're working with a California criminal defense attorney. The evidence your attorney gathers will play a major role in your defense. Therefore, reviewing the facts and collecting data are paramount to increasing your chances of success.

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Leveraging Evidence to Bolster Your Criminal Defense

Any experienced California criminal defense attorney knows that evidence is the core of constructing a strong legal defense. Given the extensive resources prosecutors can access, your lawyer must know how to present the evidence they obtain in your best interest.

Therefore, a criminal defense attorney must show that certain pieces of evidence are raising some doubt concerning their client’s guilt. That’s why they need to depend on all types of legal arsenal to ensure that all their bases are covered.

In return, the prosecution must conclusively support each element of any alleged criminal activity. Even evidence that appears persuasively incriminatory can have its credibility questioned.

The burden of proof then lies with the prosecution, which must show that the evidence totally dispels any notions that the defendant isn’t guilty.

Types of Evidence

Several types of evidence may prove your innocence. Video footage, cell phone and GPS records, receipts, and eyewitness testimonies might help establish an alibi. Character references, crime scene analysis, and forensic results also represent data that defendants frequently use to support innocence claims.

If this evidence disproves any aspects of the prosecution’s claim, the court may find in the defendant’s favor and dismiss the case.

When the Police Improperly Obtained Evidence?

Seeking suppression of evidence that law enforcement inappropriately obtained without a warrant or probable cause is one action that can benefit your defense. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments provide extensive protections against unreasonable search and seizure and self-incrimination.

Therefore, a court can suppress any tainted evidence in a case, sometimes casting doubt on the prosecution’s claims. Excluding the evidence can also lead to a dismissal.

Witness Testimonies - Establishing Doubt

A defense attorney will meticulously examine the validity of witness statements, too.

Your lawyer can show inconsistencies, bias, reputational issues, or lack of direct knowledge in a witness’s testimony. They can do this by cross-examination - a linchpin often used in successfully refuting a claim made by the prosecution.

While the playing field remains unevenly stacked against most defendants, a competent defense attorney can thoroughly mine evidence that presents a counter-theory of crime activities or undercuts any fabricated allegations.

When an attorney wields evidence that sows seeds of doubt, they offer a credible means of restoring justice so a defendant can realize a more positive outcome.

Specific Examples of How Collected Evidence in Cases Can Lead to Dismissals or Acquittals

A defense attorney can use evidence as a means to weaken a prosecutor’s case, as well as a way to prove innocence. Below are some specific examples of how a defense attorney can do this.

  • For example, a key prosecution witness’s evidence may be disputed if the witness had poor eyesight or the police fed details to the witness during questioning.
  • A defense attorney can use blood spatter analysis if it casts doubt about the defendant’s alleged participation in a crime.
  • Improper device calibration can also skew breathalyzer results, leading to the dismissal of charges if the defendant faces a DWI charge.

How Your Attorney Can Suppress the Critical Evidence Brought By the Prosecution?

Your attorney has several options they can use to throw out (suppress) or bar critical evidence from being used against you.

  • Fourth Amendment rights violations -When police seize weapons or drugs without a search warrant or probable cause, it violates search-and-seizure laws and a defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. If this occurs, the judge can throw out the court case.
  • Miranda Rights violations - Police must inform you of your right to remain silent or read your Miranda Rights or warning when they arrest you. If you do not know these rights and the police question you anyway, your attorney can dispute the statements as a Fifth Amendment violation.
  • Contamination - If law enforcement improperly handles DNA samples or blood during the collection process, the defense attorney can question the accuracy of that evidence. In turn, the court will frequently suppress the evidence.
  • Inadmissible hearsay - A prosecutor cannot introduce evidence, such as audio or witness testimony, that is considered hearsay. For example, prosecutors cannot use an out-of-court statement to prove guilt, as hearsay rules prevent this. You can’t prove credibility if the evidence is hearsay.
  • Prejudicial evidence - A judge may exclude evidence that may unfairly bias a jury or that a prosecutor uses to elicit an emotional response. For example, a judge may disallow a lawyer from showing crime scene photos that are upsettingly bloody or gory.

Therefore, a defense lawyer can use the above information to suppress evidence just as much as they can use other pieces of information to pose reasonable doubt in the jury's minds. That is why the facts in a case are so critical to your eventual success or the outcome of your trial.

How A Lawyer Can Use Favorable Evidence in a Defense Trial?

Once more, a skilled criminal defense lawyer can strategically use certain pieces of favorable evidence to argue for their client's innocence or raise reasonable doubt.

Talking Points and Examples

the role of evidence in california criminal

Below are some examples of how an attorney can present this evidence:

Alibi evidence - Security camera footage, cell phone records, eyewitness statements, and similar information may be used to show the defendant was physically elsewhere at the time/date of the alleged crime. This directly counters the prosecutor’s charges.

Digital forensic evidence - A lawyer may mine metadata, activity logs, and audit trails from electronic devices and account online services to challenge accusations of cybercrime activities. Doing so allows them to demonstrate any misattributions or fabrications.

Contradictory eyewitness testimony - If accounts from the prosecution’s witnesses conflict significantly with previous testimony, a defense attorney will challenge the credibility and certainty of the account.

Expert witnesses - Retaining qualified experts to critique forensic evidence or collection practices may be used to cast doubt on the conclusions drawn by investigators.

Character witnesses - Testimony about upstanding behavior and integrity helps negate the prosecutor’s theories about a criminal disposition or culpability.

Evidence and exclusionary rules - Once more, documenting illegal search practices without warrants or probable cause allows legal counsel to suppress the resulting evidence under 4th Amendment protections.

Any of the above strategies can undercut the elements of an alleged criminal offense. Therefore, defense lawyers can use these tactics to support a more assertive criminal defense.

The Questions Your Defense Lawyer Will Normally Ask

To gather the proper evidence for your defense, your lawyer will ask you some key questions about the events leading up to the alleged crime. Be prepared to answer the following questions honestly and to the best of your ability.

Here are typical key questions a defense lawyer will ask when you seek representation in a criminal case:

  • What is your side of the story, and what really happened from your perspective? (This helps your attorney plan your defense, so you want to be honest and forthcoming.)
  • Do you know what evidence police and prosecutors have collected regarding these charges? (This allows your lawyer to better understand your case.)
  • Have you already spoken to law enforcement about this matter in any way?
  • Can you walk me through your version of events chronologically from start to finish? (You want to prepare for this question before you speak to a lawyer.)
  • Is there anyone else involved that the police have questioned or critical witnesses I should know about?
  • If applicable - Are you currently out on bail or released pending trial? Any special conditions?
  • Has any evidence been recently seized from your home, accounts, online records, or other property?
  • Do you have or can you access any documentation, electronic records, communications, etc., that may assist us in building your defense case?

Thoroughly answering questions allows criminal defense lawyers to provide the strongest legal counsel for your case. This permits them to form strategies that they can use to form alibis or invoke exclusionary rules for your defense.

How Attorneys Manage the Collection of Evidence: How It All Begins?

After discussing your case and asking questions, your attorney is ready to collect the critical evidence for your case. When gathering evidence to build a defense in a criminal case, good defense lawyers typically start by:

  • Reviewing the prosecution’s evidence and discovery materials - Carefully examining police reports, investigator notes, forensic analysis, witness statements, and all items the prosecutor uses against their defendant allows lawyers to assess what evidence they need to rebut or undermine in their defense case.
  • Interviewing the defendant extensively - To construct an alternative theory of events, identify additional witnesses, and defend a client’s constitutional rights, if the police violated them, a lawyer needs to know the defendant's full version of what occurred.
  • Identifying gaps and flaws in the prosecutor’s allegations - Determining where pieces of physical evidence may be lacking or where the testimony seems contradictory enables defense lawyers to know where to show reasonable doubt.
  • Exploring alibis and character evidence - Pursuing confirmation of the defendant's reported activities/ or whereabouts through security footage, receipts, posts, and witness statements can be used to powerfully dispute the prosecutor’s evidence.
  • Investigating alternate explanations - Examining other forms of circumstantial evidence often involves the help of private investigators who help reconstruct the crime scene.

Using the above tactics allows lawyers to achieve acquittals, dismissals, and reduced sentences.

What to Do If You’re Innocent and Accused Falsely of a Crime?

When falsely accused of a crime, your criminal defense attorney will defend you by aggressively investigating the alleged offense while considering strategic legal maneuvers based on the evidence.

Their efforts will largely focus on the following.

  • A thorough vetting of the prosecution’s theory, forensics, and witness statements. Doing this will allow the lawyer to probe for inconsistencies, procedural errors, lying, or alternate explanations about the events of the case.
  • The identification of solid, contradictory, and exculpatory sources of evidence- video, digital records, receipts, reputable witnesses - all of which can set the tone for a factual narrative.
  • The filing of motions before trial seeking the exclusion (suppression) of improperly collected evidence - information that violates any constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and self-incrimination.
  • Extensively preparing the defendant and favorable witnesses to give confident testimony during a trial, countering specious accusations and falsehoods.
  • Presenting the other side with affirmative proof of innocence, demanding withdrawal of the charges, and pleading to trial if refused.

A lawyer’s duty, when collecting evidence against false charges, means protecting the rights of their client and making sure the true version of the events continues to be recognized.

Exchanging Evidence: Discovery in California

One of the key ways an attorney gathers evidence is through discovery. Basically, discovery is the process where evidence is collected and exchanged. This is done between a criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor before a trial occurs.

Indeed, exchanging evidence is critical to a criminal investigation and preparing for trial. Discovery provides relevant information, allowing both sides to consider their case strategy before they proceed to trial.

Types of Discovery Evidence in California

Evidence used in discovery in California includes a wide range of information, including:

  • Hard evidence, including physical evidence
  • Exculpatory evidence or evidence that exonerates the client
  • Witness statements
  • Police depositions

A deposition, used in discovery, also helps a lawyer learn how a witness will answer at trial. A court reporter transcribes a deposition while the defense lawyer and prosecuting attorney are present.

Discovery may also include evidence in the form of lab reports, including DNA analyses and fingerprinting information.

Other key discovery materials (evidence) can include:

  • Video or audio items that come from law enforcement surveillance, including phone taps, videos of alleged drug buys, and crime scene pictures.
  • Police reports from the initial crime call and follow-up reports from eyewitness interviews or detectives.

All discovery material is pertinent to the alleged crime. Therefore, as a defendant, you are entitled to know ahead of time about the evidence the prosecutor uses to support their charge for the alleged crime.

Don’t go it alone. With an attorney’s help, you can ensure a better future and outcome in any criminal case. Working with a Criminal, DUI, & License Defense attorney will be helpful because they will protect your rights during your trial.

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