Why would I want to object to evidence?
Once evidence is given to the judge, it is part of the official court record, and the judge can consider it when deciding your case. A successful objection will keep evidence from entering the record. This means the judge or jury cannot use that evidence to decide your case.
You would want to object to evidence if:
- it harms your case; and
- there is a rule of evidence that says the evidence should not be allowed.
Here are a couple more reasons why it is important to object to evidence:
- Making an objection at the time the evidence is admitted and including the reason why you are objecting can be important if you later decide to appeal the case. Any time you object, the judge might disagree and allow the evidence into the record. If you lose your case, and the evidence that was allowed in was important to the case, then you might be able to appeal based on the judge’s decision to allow in the evidence. However, if you did not object to the evidence when it was entered, then you may not be able to appeal based on that issue because you failed to “preserve” the objection in the record, even if the evidence should not have been allowed in. Please see our Filing an Appeal page for more information on what an appeal is and about preserving the record. Similarly, if the other side objects to evidence that you are trying to have admitted and the judge allows (“sustains”) the objection and doesn’t admit (“excludes”) the evidence, it is important for you to object to the exclusion of the evidence and explain why the evidence was both relevant and important to your case. This is called making a “proffer.” While sometimes it can be difficult to ask the judge to allow you to tell him/her the reason your evidence should have been admitted, if you don’t, you may not be able to appeal your case based on the judge’s improper exclusion of evidence. In preparing for trial, it helps to anticipate what evidence the other side likely will try to have excluded and practice your argument as to why the evidence should be allowed (“admitted”).
- Sometimes, if your witness is having difficulties while testifying under cross-examination, you may want to object to a question to disrupt the flow of questioning. This can give your witness a chance to regroup and hopefully answer the following questions better. This tactic should be used sparingly, however, because it can backfire if the judge thinks you are only objecting to be disruptive. You must have a valid basis to object, like if the question has been asked and answered or if the other attorney is badgering the witness. Every time you object, make sure you have a reason for the objection and you are prepared to explain it.
Make sure that you only object when it is needed. Objecting too often to evidence without a valid reason can make it more difficult for you when you do make a valid objection. The judge may not take any of your objections seriously and you may find yourself in a “boy who cried wolf” situation. Too many objections might also affect your rapport with the judge or jury.