physical evidence | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: General Term

Physical evidence is any tangible object or material relevant to a crime that can be used to provide information or prove the guilt or innocence of a defendant.

Physical evidence in the criminal justice system refers to any tangible object or material that is relevant to a crime and can be used to provide information or prove the guilt or innocence of a defendant. Physical evidence can include a wide range of objects, such as weapons, clothing, DNA samples, fingerprints, and tire tracks.

It is often considered to be the most reliable form of evidence in criminal cases, as it is objective and does not rely on the subjective testimony of witnesses or the opinions of experts. It can provide valuable information about a crime, such as the identity of the perpetrator, the location of the crime, and the manner in which the crime was committed.

Physical evidence is collected by law enforcement officials using a variety of techniques and tools. For example, forensic investigators may use DNA analysis to identify the source of biological material found at a crime scene, or they may use chemical analysis to identify the presence of drugs or other substances.

Once such evidence has been collected, it must be properly handled and preserved in order to ensure that it is admissible in court. It must be carefully labeled, packaged, and stored in order to prevent contamination or damage. Additionally, It must be properly documented and tracked in order to ensure that it is properly accounted for and can be traced back to its source.

This type of evidence is often presented in court as part of the prosecution’s case against a defendant. In order for it to be admissible in court, it must meet certain criteria, such as relevance, authenticity, and reliability. Additionally, the evidence must be introduced into court through a chain of custody that documents its handling and movement from the time it was collected until the time it is introduced as evidence.

Physical evidence can be particularly valuable in cases where there is little or no direct testimony or eyewitness evidence. For example, physical evidence can provide information about the identity of the perpetrator, such as fingerprints or DNA samples, even if there were no witnesses to the crime.

However, physical evidence can also be subject to challenges and limitations. For example, physical evidence may be incomplete or inconclusive, or it may be subject to interpretation by experts. Additionally, physical evidence may be subject to contamination or damage, which can affect its reliability and admissibility in court.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 04/27/2023

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