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Legal Information

At the Hearing

Is there a process to admit evidence other than testimony?

Every court is different, but generally there is a certain way that evidence is entered into the court record.

  1. Have the evidence marked by the court clerk. The clerk will assign a number to the evidence, like “Petitioner’s Exhibit 1,” so that the court can keep track of the evidence. This also helps if the case is appealed so that anyone reading the transcript knows what evidence is being referred to. If the evidence is a document or a photograph, you should bring extra copies to give to the other party and to keep for yourself. During the trial, it is helpful to mark down notes for yourself about what number each piece of evidence is given so that you can refer to it during the trial as needed.
  2. Then you will ask the judge if you can show the evidence to the witness. The judge may let you walk up to the witness, which is known as “approaching the witness,” or the judge may order the court officer to take the evidence from you and hand it to the witness.
  3. Once the witness has the evidence, you will have the witness describe what the evidence is and where it came from, in very basic terms. (Note: If you do not have a witness, you could describe and enter the evidence while you are testifying.) For example, you could ask:
    • You: “What is Petitioner’s Exhibit 1?”
      • Witness: “It is a photograph showing a knife.”
    • You: “Have you ever seen that knife before?”
      • Witness: “Yes, it is the other party’s knife.”
    • You: “How do you know?”
      • Witness: “The knife has a carving of a bear on the handle, and it has the other party’s initials on the blade. I have seen it at his house and in his car glovebox.”
    • You: “Is this a fair and accurate depiction of the knife?”
      • Witness: “Yes it is.”

Asking if the photo is a “fair and accurate depiction” is typical language that is used to show that the photograph accurately reflects the item in the picture, which is known as “authenticating” the photograph. Note: A witness does not have to be the one who took a photograph to be able to authenticate it although if the witness did take the photograph, you can ask about that.

You can use similar questions if you are trying to admit physical evidence, such as the actual knife. However, instead of asking if it is a “fair and accurate depiction,” you would ask “Is this the actual knife?” Similarly, if you are trying to enter documents into evidence, your last question would be “Has this document been altered in any way?” For videos, you could ask the following questions:

  • You: “Have you seen this disc before?”
    • Witness: “Yes, this is the compact disc that I created with the video of the altercation on June 7, 2019.”
  • You: “How do you know that?”
    • Witness: “I took the original video on my cell phone, and then I transferred it to this disc. I labeled the disc ‘June 7, 2019 fight’ and that is my handwriting on the disc.”
  • You: “Was the video altered in any way?”
    • Witness: “No.”
  • You: “Does the video show a clear and accurate depiction of what occurred between you and the other party on June 7, 2019?”
    • Witness: “Yes.”
  1. After you have laid the foundation for the evidence, you can ask the judge if it can be admitted into evidence. The other party can object to your evidence being admitted. The other party could also ask the witness additional questions about the evidence to before deciding whether to object to the evidence or not. These questions are called “voir dire.” Keep in mind, when the other party is trying to admit evidence, you also can object or ask voir dire questions.
  2. If the judge accepts the evidence, it will be marked as “admitted” and you are free to ask questions about it with any of the people who are testifying. The judge will usually keep the evidence in the court, so if you are trying to admit something from your cell phone or another item that you need back, it is best to bring in printed screenshots or photographs if possible.