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Fruit of the Poisonous Tree: When Evidence Is Inadmissible in a Criminal Case

When it comes to evidence that is admissible in a criminal court case, it is important for a lawyer to not utilize hearsay or "he said, she said." This simply will not work in a court of law. Rather, attorneys wish to back up their claims with evidence.

However, not all evidence is good evidence. In fact, a lot of evidence is, in fact, not even allowed in a criminal court room due to the fact that it simply does not fit the hearing. Throughout the course of this brief article, you will learn what constitutes inadmissible evidence in a criminal trial and why that evidence is considered inadmissible.

Rules of Admissibility

The federal court system has ruled that there are 3 specific rules of admissibility. All evidence, in order to be admissible, but meet the criterion set by these stringent guidelines. What is the reason for such rigid rules? Because otherwise, anything could be admitted as evidence, and as such, this would see court cases taking long, irrelevant detours that would prolong the state of the case and would ultimately become irrelevant.

The first rule of admissibility is, aptly enough, relevance. A relevant piece of evidence can either prove or disprove a fact of the crime committed, but does not actually prove or disprove the defendant's guilt or innocence. A weapon with a bloodstain that matches the victim's DNA is relevant evidence and so is the testimony of the person who supposedly sold that evidence to the defendant.

The testimony of a person who believes that the gun was sold to that person, but did not actually see the act or is not involved with either party whatsoever, would be considered irrelevant.

The next rule of admissibility is materiality. Materiality attempts to prove an essential fact of the case. For example, if a person was murdered in a room, and an attorney attempts to emphatically argue that the color of the carpet of the room was green, this will most likely be deemed immaterial to the case at hand by the presiding judge. Although it may be the case that the carpet of the room is green, it is ultimately not an essential fact of the case that will have no bearing on the outcome of the trial.

Finally, the evidence must be considered competent. Competent evidence is evidence that has proven to be reliable, such as DNA evidence or matching a footprint to the defendant's shoe. A testimony by an expert witness on a matter that he or she has no expertise in, however, will be deemed incompetent by a presiding judge.

Hearsay Rule

Hearsay is a form of inadmissible evidence that is based on testimony. This is, essentially, what was discussed when the "he said, she said" phenomenon was mentioned. In these cases, a testimony is ultimately considered to be inadmissible because it falls into the trappings of "he said, she said".

For example, if a person is called to the stand as an eyewitness, but it turns out that the witness is merely recounting the events that were told to him or her by someone who did see the events in question take place, this would fall under the jurisdiction of hearsay. A good judge would find this person's testimony to be inadmissible.

There is a wide range of reasons why a judge may find evidence to be inadmissible. This brief article has hopefully given you a small look into some of the reasons why evidence may ultimately be considered inadmissible. A good criminal lawyer will be able to easily make the call regarding the admissibility of evidence, and let you know if the evidence the prosecutors have against you will fall or stand. Learn more by visiting resources like