Evidence In Texas Criminal Cases: What Can And Can’t Be Used Against You
When prosecutors charge a defendant with a crime, they bear the burden of proving their case at trial with solid evidence. The standard of proof for conviction in all criminal cases is “beyond a reasonable doubt”. This means that there must be no other reasonable conclusion for a jury other than that the defendant did what they are accused of. Unlike a civil trial, where a verdict can be based on “more likely than not”, criminal verdicts require 100% certainty among a jury of your peers.
The “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement comes from centuries of legal practice in England and the United States as well as the Constitution’s Due Process Clause. This is meant to ensure that certain procedures must be followed in all criminal cases, as no person should be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
Evidence in Texas Criminal Trials
In Texas, Constitutional standards and the Texas Rules of Evidence apply. This complex set of rules explains what types of evidence can be admitted at trial and under what circumstances. For example, certain types of “character evidence” or evidence of past behavior may or may not be admitted. In addition, hearsay statements (words stated by somebody outside of court) are generally not allowed except under a detailed list of specific situations. These rules are difficult enough for attorneys and judges to navigate at times, which makes a good criminal defense lawyer especially useful at trial.
There are typically about 5 types of evidence available in a Texas criminal trial:
- Physical evidence. This includes tangible objects and things that can be viewed and inspected at trial. A torn shirt, a bloody glove, a knife, etc. – these are all items typically removed from a crime scene that can help prove or disprove a person’s guilt.
- Documentary evidence. This includes written statements, police reports, photographs, or printouts of emails, for example. Documents can describe things that happened, place somebody near the scene of a crime, or demonstrate an alibi.
- Testimonial evidence. This is evidence offered via testimony on the witness stand under oath during a trial. A defendant in a criminal trial has a Constitutional right to confront and cross-examine their accusers (and their witnesses) at trial. Testimonial evidence can be particularly crucial for a defendant when a prosecution witness recants a previous statement, or contradicts statements they gave previously in police reports or affidavits.
- Digital evidence. Digital evidence tends to include information such as internet browser search histories, computer hard drive records, or recordings on social media. This type of evidence can often be challenged if it was not obtained without a proper warrant, or has some other basis for exclusion under the rules of evidence.
- Demonstrative evidence. This is normally used in conjunction with witness testimony and includes models, charts, maps, or digital re-enactments.
Any of these types of evidence must be deemed permissible under the Texas Rules of Evidence, and cannot violate a defendant’s Constitutional rights.
For example, evidence can be barred from trial if:
- The prosecution failed to properly disclose the evidence to the defendant and their attorney within the timeframes required by law. For example, evidence given from the police to the prosecution must also be provided to the defendant in a timely fashion.
- The defendant made self-incriminating statements to law enforcement while under custody without being given their Miranda
- Law enforcement mishandled evidence, improperly seized evidence, or created chain-of-custody errors before trial.
- Hearsay statements are introduced at trial and that witness is not available to testify in court.
There are a number of critical ways that evidence in Texas criminal trials can be presented – and challenged. This makes the quality of your legal counsel especially important. Regardless of what you have been charged with, you need an attentive and vigilant criminal defense attorney that knows the law and knows the rules of evidence inside and out.
Our Pearland, Texas Defense Attorney Can Defend Your Case and Challenge the Prosecution’s Evidence
If you have been charged with any type of crime, you have important procedural rights with regard to evidence. The rules of evidence must be observed not only at trial but in the pre-trial phases of a case as well. If any aspects of the prosecution’s evidence were not obtained within your Constitutional rights, or do not meet critical evidentiary standards, they can be deemed inadmissible.
We will review your case in full detail and provide the most vigorous defense possible. Contact a Pearland criminal lawyer at the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today or call 832-243-6153 for a free case evaluation to get started.