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Direct vs. Circumstantial Evidence in Your Criminal Trial

Defendants charged with criminal offenses like homicide or grand theft who believe they can escape a conviction because the prosecution does not have any direct evidence of them committing the offense are in for an unpleasant surprise. In Florida (as elsewhere), a conviction for even the most serious of offenses can be sustained on appeal using only circumstantial (or indirect) evidence. Thus, when defending yourself against criminal charges you must take into account not only the objects, photographs, and videos that tie you to the crime but also the inferences and circumstantial evidence the prosecution is likely to rely upon to convict you.

The Difference Between Direct and Circumstantial Evidence

Before describing how to address circumstantial evidence in your case, it may be helpful to define circumstantial evidence through example. Consider this scenario: A cat is chasing a mouse in your home. You follow the cat into a back room where you see that the cat has the mouse cornered. You watch as the cat eats the mouse and walks away. If someone comes later and asks you what happened to the mouse, you have direct evidence – your own eyewitness testimony – about what happened.

Now, consider the same scenario except that you do not follow the cat into the back room. Instead, you hear noise and commotion coming from the back room that sound similar to a struggle or fight. A few moments later, you see the cat emerge from the back room. You then go into the back room but do not find the mouse. You now have circumstantial evidence – the noises you heard and the facts that you saw the cat come out of the room but did not see the mouse – that the cat ate the mouse. In other words, while you did not see the cat eat the mouse and therefore do not know with certainty that the mouse is dead, you have evidence that suggests the mouse is in fact dead.

The Problem with Circumstantial Evidence

If there is circumstantial evidence in your case – a receipt that puts you near the scene of the crime at the time the crime is alleged to have occurred – the prosecution will ask the jury to draw inferences that suggest your guilt. Overcoming these inferences can be as simple as offering reasonable (and truthful!) and innocent alternative explanations for the evidence. In the case of the receipt, for example, it may be that you lent your card to a friend to use that night, or that your card had been stolen prior to the date of the alleged crime.

Miami criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner is committed to holding the prosecution to its burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He will not let the prosecutor in your case make unfair or untrue inferences from the evidence but will instead make sure the judge or jury knows the full story and all the relevant details of your defense. Contact him today to discuss the details of your case by calling (305) 670-9919 or contacting his office through the firm’s online contact form.

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