During a criminal case, both the prosecution and the defense rely on evidence to prove or disprove a claim made by either party. For consideration by the court, the evidence must be reliable, relevant and free from prejudice.
Evidence that unfairly creates an unfavorable opinion of the opposing party could be inadmissible in court. Parties must consider the reliability of any witnesses, documents, samples or other materials collected to prevent exclusions of key pieces of testimony or other proof.
Pennsylvania’s rules of evidence
Admissible evidence during a criminal trial might include documents, tangible items, witness statements or expert testimony. A judge rules on admissibility according to how the evidence came into the possession of the party, any prejudicial effect, relevance, and whether or not it is hearsay. Any violation of civil rights while obtaining evidence often renders the evidence inadmissible. Such a violation could include an illegal search and seizure of the defendant’s home or property.
Use of hearsay
Hearsay refers to third-party information that a witness presents during questioning in court. Under most circumstances, hearsay is inadmissible. However, in Pennsylvania, expert witnesses may receive a little more latitude. These witnesses may utilize personal observations, trial presentations or data received from someone outside of court. Data gained from a third party typically falls under the category of hearsay but not when used with Pennsylvania’s exceptions for expert testimony.
The opposing counsel may challenge the admissibility of any evidence in court. The judge has the final say on what meets the criteria established by Pennsylvania law.