Direct vs. Circumstantial Evidence in South Carolina Criminal Cases

When analyzing the prosecution’s case against you, a Clemson criminal defense lawyer will focus first on the type of evidence available against you. Both direct and circumstantial evidence is allowed in South Carolina Courts. But do these types of evidence hold the same weight?

The answer is no, and we will explain why in this detailed guide on direct vs. circumstantial evidence in criminal cases.

What Is Direct Evidence?

The United States Courts for the 9th Direct Circuit define direct evidence as “the direct proof of a fact”. The most common types of direct evidence presented in court are:

  • The testimony of an eyewitness who saw the crime being committed
  • Video footage showing the crime being committed
  • The defendant’s written confession

This is the strongest type of evidence in a criminal case. It is also the rarest to find. And it is not always 100% watertight, especially when it is solely based on witness testimonies. Various studies indicate that even the most honest eyewitnesses may not be reliable and present a false memory of the event, instead of what really happened.

What Is Circumstantial Evidence?

Circumstantial or indirect evidence is a set of proofs which may lead someone to reliably infer that a fact has happened. Let us consider the following proofs available in a case:

  • An eyewitness saw a masked person running out of a bank and leaving in a car
  • A ski mask containing hair belonging to the defendant is found abandoned close to the bank
  • The defendant’s fingerprints are found on a knife
  • A bank teller recognizes the knife as the one they were threatened with to hand over cash

All these represent circumstantial evidence indicating that the defendant committed the bank robbery. However, the burden of proof in criminal cases is extremely exigent – beyond any reasonable doubt.

This is where an experienced criminal defense lawyer steps in to cast doubt on the available evidence and present an alternative scenario, where their client was mistakenly charged with the crime.

evidence can be challenged by a skilled lawyer

The Elements that Make Indirect Evidence Admissible in Court

When introducing circumstantial evidence, the prosecution must make the sure that all the items together will prove:

  • The elements of the crime
  • The existence of certain facts that make it more likely that the defendant committed the crime
  • The defendant’s mental state or intent to commit the crime

Together, the available evidence must consistently and conclusively prove the defendant’s guilt.

What If the Prosecution Only Has Circumstantial Evidence?

When you hire a Clemson criminal defense lawyer, they will start working to dismantle the prosecution’s case against you. This task may be easier if there is no direct evidence against you.

After several instances of wrongful conviction, the Supreme Court of South Carolina decided to give defendants the right to request special instructions for the jury. If the only available evidence is circumstantial, jurors must ensure that:

  • The evidence must point conclusively to the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt
  • The separate pieces of evidence must be consistent with each other
  • If the evidence only portrays the defendant as acting suspiciously, they must be found not guilty

A Clemson Criminal Defense Lawyer Is Ready to Help You Fight the Charges!

Being charged with a criminal offense can change your life forever in a negative way. You cannot afford to leave your defense to chance.

An experienced Clemson criminal defense lawyer can find the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case against you, especially if they only rely on circumstantial evidence.

Do not waste valuable time – contact Boatwright Legal as soon as possible after being charged to schedule a free case review at 864-332-4269!