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The four types of evidence in Michigan criminal trials

A piece of evidence presented at a criminal trial does one of two things: help establish the defendant’s guilt or help create a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

There are many types of evidence that the judge can allow the prosecutor or defense attorney to present to the jury. Michigan law groups evidence into four categories:

  • Real evidence
  • Demonstrative evidence
  • Documentary evidence
  • Testimonial evidence

Real evidence

This refers to physical evidence that a jury can handle and/or observe, such as fingerprints, a weapon believed to be involved in the crime, drugs allegedly seized from the defendant blood samples and DNA samples. To be admitted as evidence at trial, an item must be relevant, material and authentic. The attorney presenting the evidence must prove these elements by establishing the piece of evidence’s chain of custody.

Testimonial evidence

A witness’s statements in court while under oath that describe relevant things they saw or heard is called testimonial evidence.

Demonstrative evidence

Demonstrative evidence mainly supplements witness testimony. It includes things like charts, maps, graphs and diagrams that provide visual aids for the jurors.

Documentary evidence

Documents written by the defendant, victim or other party, such as letters, emails, journal entries and newspaper articles, may be admissible as evidence.

Just because the prosecutor wants to bring a piece of evidence against you to trial does not mean the judge must agree. There is a process to submitting evidence for approval, and the defense attorney can contest it if there is reason to object. Your defense attorney will work to protect your rights and maintain fairness throughout the pre-trial and trial process.

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