Cases Won on Circumstantial Evidence? Difference Between Direct & Physical Evidence, Inference, Reasoning & More

TV and the movies get it all wrong. While direct evidence is damning, circumstantial evidence is laughed off as nothing. Well about 90% of all evidence in a trial tends to be circumstantial. Inference is a primary component of circumstantial evidence. When physical evidence is collected it is related to the case or event by inference. The point is that circumstantial evidence basically allows for more than one interpretation and explanation of the facts. Physical evidence or testimony by an expert witness is usually treated as circumstantial evidence.

Difference Between Direct & Circumstantial Evidence

Direct evidence supports the truth of the assertion directly and does not rely on inference from a set of facts to the matter asserted. “I saw him stab that guy” is a direct evidence testimony and does not relay on another fact or assertion to support the evidence. Where “I saw him enter the back door, then heard screaming and called the cops who found the body” is circumstantial evidence. It requires more information to develop the inference that “he” killed “her”.

Physical Evidence at a Crime Scene

Police procedural TV and the movies show that great care is taken in collecting crime scene or physical evidence. Fingerprints, DNA, blood and other evidence. Does physical evidence stand on its own? No, the husbands DNA in the car alone is not direct evidence. Why? It is inferred that through the course of everyday living that the husband would have access to the car that his wife was murdered in. The DNA on its own will not damn the husband if taken to court. The evidence is circumstantial, and the inference is that the DNA has no weight at all, one way or another. The physical evidence needs additional inferential facts to establish it as viable evidence. Let’s say that you recover a bullet, a tool and marks expert identifies it with the suspects gun, but you need to put the gun in the suspects hand, put the suspect at the crime scene and prove or infer that the suspect pulled the trigger. The bullet does not stand on its own, its circumstantial.

Inference VS Deductive Reasoning

The point is it requires the totality of circumstances to construct an inference, not the obviousness of the conclusion to establish circumstantial evidence. So, most of those convicted have been by a majority if not entirely by circumstantial evidence. Guilt or innocence is established by circumstantial evidence through reasoning. In most cases those who commit criminal acts tend to avoid conditions that would provide direct evidence. Criminal activities are generally done in secret, not openly. In the submission of circumstantial evidence, it depends on the attorney of either side to weave various bits and pieces into an understandable whole, or if defending punch holes into the logical inference. If reasoning is the rationale for establishing circumstantial evidence, it is logical to expect reasoning to be used to refute it as well.

Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Business Attorneys & More in Greater Las Vegas, Nevada

The rules of evidence apply across both criminal and civil evidence. Yes, you need to prove criminal cases beyond a shadow of doubt, and you only need to prove by the preponderance of evidence a civil case, but the underlying standards of evidence is the same.That being said, the admittance of certain evidence is negotiable and up to the presiding magistrate. They do have evidential hearings after all. Truth stands on its own, but its relevance to the case at hand can be negotiable as are the facts that establish the ‘truth’.
This brings us to witnesses. How reliable are they? Witness interpret what they see based on their own foundation that includes personal knowledge, experience and bias. There are psychological, geographic and physiological factors the influence, many times subconsciously, witnesses to an event. That’s why investigators separate witnesses. Some divergence in fact is expected, because of the all the contributory factors list above. So that is why the credibility of the witness is a primary consideration of accepting or rejecting verbal testimony, but unless it is a direct unambiguous observation of fact, it is circumstantial. Contact Kajioka & Associates Attorneys at Law to represent you and fight for your rights!