Criminal law is referred to as that branch of law concerned with crimes committed against the public authority. It is very different from civil law. An example is murder. It is very easy to put murder under civil law because it is a crime committed against another human being but the crime of murder is against the public interests. An example of civil crime is when aperson does not honor a contract.
Criminal law can be substantial or procedural. Substantial criminal law is concerned with
various crimes covered with the criminal code but procedural criminal law deals with the prosecution of the crimes mentioned under substantial criminal law. The sentencing recommendations are also stipulated for various criminal crimes under procedural law. Prosecution under criminal codes can only be done when there is proof beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt that the person accused committed the said crime.
Felonies, misdemeanors and treason are the three broad types of crimes that show in court. Treason is seen as a crime that threatens the security of a nation and the well being of a nation and this may explain why criminals charged with treason have such stiff and severe penalties. Under criminal law, misdemeanors are minor crimes but felonies are rather serious crimes and they are normally associated with mandatory sentences.
How judges, parties and juries give out then closely inspect the different forms of proof at
a court trial is all governed by the law of evidence. In a way, evidence forms an extension of
criminal procedure. It also forms an extension of civil law. In the Unites States, the Federal
Rules of Evidence (FRE) are the rules the federal courts follow. Most of the laws of evidence are
encompassed in the Federal Rules of Evidence. The Federal Rules of Evidence has played a major role in the development of evidence law and most of this is attributed to its simplicity and brevity.
Types and Categories of Evidence used in Criminal Law
The writings, statements made by people who testify in court, objects that can be touched or felt and any other things that can be used to support the nonexistence or existence of a given fact are referred to as evidence. In law, it is the evidence presented in a court of law that is used to prove a person’s innocence or guilt depending on which side of the court proceedings the evidence is available to. Before lawyers go to court, they usually do a thorough preparation of the evidence by closely inspecting and analyzing the evidence that will be needed.
Depending on the severity of the criminal act being argued in court, the case is analyzed in different ways. Different cases need different aspects of the case to be proven. The side filing a lawsuit and the defense analyze the case in more or less the same way. One of the considerations made is each and every one of the elements that are critical to prove a case or a claim is determined as well as the elements needed to prove the defense to a claim or a case against someone.
All the facts that are crucial in order to settle firmly in a position are determined for each
essential part of a defense or a claim before the beginning of each court session. This is done to
increase the chances of winning the case. The counsel is supposed to convince the court that a
fact they bring forth is true beyond any shadow of doubt and it is upon this that the court makes a
decision. Lastly, the evidence that is essential in proving each and every fact associated with a
claim or defense has to be determined before the case moves to a court of law. After the various
determinations have been made then the counsel is in a position to know the kind of evidence
they should gather. There exists four basic categories that criminal law provides; Demonstrative, Experimental, and Scientific Evidence, Documentary Evidence, Testimonial Evidence and Real Evidence.
Demonstrative, Experimental and Scientific Evidence
Demonstrative evidence may include physical objects such as photographs, x-rays,clothing, machines, weapons, maps, tools, models, diagrams, computer animation, diagrams,physical examinations and motion pictures. They have to be authenticated before a judge allows their use in the court of law to be used as demonstrative evidence. Any such evidence has to pass the authentication test.
Experimental evidence is the kind of evidence that is gotten s a result of experiments performed on objects got on a criminal scene so as to deduce the background of the criminal or to gather information on the characteristics of the criminal that could be capitalized on in the court of law. Scientific evidence is close to experimental evidence. There is the use of chemical tests and other tests in a bid to prove the presence of a particular person or thing or substance at the criminal scene and even be able to come up with time estimates. Examples of such tests include the DNA tests that are performed in criminal cases where the body tissues were involved.
Documentary evidence includes the evidence that is found in or on documents. An example is a contract when there is a need to prove the terms upon which the contract was signed or agreed to. Such evidence falls in the documentary evidence and the real evidence categories. When documentary evidence is taken into evidence then it has to be authenticated just like anyother real evidence. There needs to be a witness who could identify the document or witnesses who can easily explain the way the document works and the processes that should be followed for that.
There are some four pitfalls that need to be considered when dealing with documentary
evidence. There is best evidence, hearsay, parol evidence and authentication issues that surround
documentary evidence. The parol evidence does not allow the allowance of some kind of evidence into the court of law about any kind of written agreements. Most of the time rather than not, the written contracts or documents to prove the existence or non existence of a fact fall under substantial law. They are rarely considered to serve as evidence.
In the United States, some documents do not need for a member of the counsel to authenticate them under the Federal Rules of Evidence. Some examples of such documents include periodicals, newspapers, certificates of the custodians of business records, acknowledged documents to prove the acknowledgement, trade inscriptions, official documents, certified copies of public records and certain commercial paper and related documents.
In the United States, the best evidence rule states that when a written document is offered as evidence then it has to be the original document and not a copy unless a very adequate explanation is given for presenting the copy in court. The Federal Rules of Evidence allows for the use of documents that are reproduced mechanically unless there arises a genuine concern on the document’s accuracy or a concern that the use of such a document would not be fair. The Federal Rules of Evidence also allows for the use of the summaries of lengthy documents
provided the originals of the same documents are provided for examination.
Most evidence is done in a testimonial way by witnesses is the most common of all evidence kinds. The witness must demonstrate that he or she is competent in terms of the case. He or she must be able to demonstrate that he or she is in a position to remember the details of the criminal crime or even the criminal. In other words, the witness should have the faculties needed for him or her to be able to have known understood or has remembered the full details of the case. The witness needs to be normal and not mentally unstable. When children are to be put in the stand, the judge has to check their intelligence and their understanding in order to show that their testimony will be accurate.
It is possible for a witness to be excused from talking about something in court if he or she pleads personal privilege. Some of the information that can pass for such kind of exemption is information held by priest and penitent, husband and wife, husband and wife as well as attorney and client. Some states in the United States do not have jurisdiction for such people to testify.
Real evidence is something tangible that can be seen, touched and felt. The relevant characteristics of the real thing are the ones that are picked out in order to assist in the proving of
a case or defending in a case depending on the side the real thing is supposed to benefit. The real
thing taken to court must have been there in the criminal act or it must b every relevant in
explaining the nonexistence or the existence of something in a court of law. Real evidence must be material, relevant and competent for a sitting judge to allow its use in a trial. The term given to the process where a member of the counsel in a given case collects real things in a bid to prove something is referred to as laying a foundation. Laying a foundation is not limited to the use of real evidence only. A lawyer must demonstrate that the evidence is competent and he or she does this by showing that that thing is what it is supposed to be. Authentication is the process of clearly proving that the real evidence or any other kind of
evidence is what it is purported to be.
Fletcher, George P. (1998). Basic Concepts of Criminal Law. Cambridge. Oxford University
Fletcher, George P. (2000). Rethinking Criminal Law. Cambridge. Oxford University Press.
Gorr, Michael, Sterling Harwood, eds. (1992). Controversies in Criminal Law. Westview Press.
Gross, Hyman (2005, reissue). A Theory of Criminal Justice. Cambridge. Oxford University