What is the difference between circumstantial and direct evidence?
Circumstantial evidence is evidence that does not expressly prove that the person on trial is guilty of the crime. Rather, it infers that the person is guilty. An example of this is showing a receipt for a knife that the defendant purchased, thus inferring that the same person committed a crime with that knife.
On the other hand, direct evidence straight-forwardly shows that something is a fact without inference or presumption. An example of this is the testimony of a witness who saw the knife being used to commit a crime by the defendant.
Direct evidence can also be:
• Physical evidence of the crimeIf the direct evidence that is used in a trial is true, the charge against the accused is established. The claim that the defendant committed the crime they are charged with can be proved by direct evidence alone, if the jury believes that the evidence is reliable.
• Documentary evidence, such as surveillance tapes, audio, or another reliable source.
In the United States, the law shows no distinction between circumstantial and direct evidence in terms of which has more weight or importance. Both types of evidence may be enough to establish the defendant’s guilt, depending on how the jury finds the facts of the case.
Direct evidence can have varying degrees of weight depending on the witnesses who deliver the testimony. The testimony of an upstanding and trust-worthy source will have a stronger influence on the jury than the testimony from a shady and unreliable witness.
Direct evidence is helpful to the jury, because it lessens the degree to which the jurors infer that the crime was committed by the defendant. Direct evidence is solely based on fact, and not coincidences.