An Introduction to the Rules of EvidenceYou may have heard the legal term “rules of evidence” but are unsure what that means, exactly. The rules of evidence are based on information. The rules of evidence simply guide which information is allowed to be part of a trial and how that information is allowed to be presented. The rules of evidence determine what the legal representatives and witnesses are permitted to discuss during a trial.

Why are There Rules of Evidence?
The rules are needed to control the manner in which evidence is presented and the content of the evidence used during a trial. The evidence rules exist to show how evidence needs to get from a witness to a jury and/or a judge. For example, per rules of evidence, a witness is not permitted to provide a long story before the jury and/or judge. The witness may testify in response to questions being asked, only. In accordance with the rules of evidence, a witness also may not testify concerning hearsay. Hearsay is something he or she may have heard about the case, outside the courtroom.

The Start of the Rules of Evidence
The creation of the rules of evidence came about primarily through “common law.” Most evidence rules are part of a state’s statutes. In California, the evidence rules are known as the California Evidence Code, for example. California was one of the first states to enact rules of evidence. Because every jurisdiction’s rules of evidence are based on common law, most evidence rules are similar throughout the United States, however.

Better Understanding Evidence
Evidence is a key component in civil and criminal proceedings. Evidence could include blood samples, hair samples, video recordings, and testimonies provided by witnesses. If evidence is determined to be illegal, it may not be presented during a trial. Evidence that is deemed irrelevant or prejudice may be deemed inadmissible, as well. Additionally, evidence may be thrown out if the integrity of it is in doubt. There are four general types of evidence allowed to be presented, most of the time: real evidence (tangible things, such as a weapon); demonstrative (a model of what likely happened at a given time and place); documentary (a letter, blog post, or other document); and testimonial (a witness testimony).

Evidence and the Judge
When it comes to a judge, he or she often sorts out the evidence to decide on one’s innocence or guilt during a judge trial. While the rules of evidence apply to a judge, it is often his or her responsibility to decide what evidence should or should not be admissible, as well. This means the judge, who is deciding on the case, ends of hearing proper and improper evidence. Sometimes, defendants choose judge trials opposed to jury trials because they hope that a judge will be influenced by information that is inadmissible, technically, based on the rules of evidence. Before requesting a judge trial or a jury trial, it is best to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of both with a skilled criminal defense attorney.