Definition of Evidence
In legal terms, evidence covers the burden of proof, admissibility, relevance, weight and sufficiency of what should be admitted into the record of a legal proceeding. Evidence -- crucial in both civil and criminal proceedings -- may include blood or hair samples, video surveillance recordings, or witness testimony. The Federal Rules of Evidence (PDF) govern the admissibility of evidence in federal trials, but state rules of evidence are largely modeled after the federal rules.
If evidence is procured illegally, such as during an unlawful police search, then that evidence (and any other evidence it leads to) may not be used at trial. Evidence that is deemed irrelevant or prejudicial to a case also may be deemed inadmissible. Additionally, evidence may be thrown out if the integrity of its handling ("chain of custody") is in doubt.
There are four general types of evidence:
Terms to Know
Practice Area Notes
If you are a defendant in either a criminal or civil trial, your attorney may challenge and/or try to suppress evidence presented by the other party. One of your attorney's most vital tasks is to find evidence that best supports your case.
The main difference between the use of evidence in criminal and civil cases is the burden of proof . For a guilty verdict in a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." But for a civil defendant to be found liable, the plaintiff generally need only prove culpability "by a preponderance of the evidence" (a lower threshold).
Related Practice Areas