What types of evidence can be used against you?

In 2010, a man was charged with threatening federal officers with a gun. The Legal Intelligencer reports that the agents were in an unmarked car performing surveillance in an area known for heavy drug activity. The man claimed he was concerned for his safety, and he was unaware the men were federal officers. He then walked toward the car holding a gun and was subsequently arrested, convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison

During the trial, the government submitted as evidence a testimony that the man had been observed dealing drugs at the same corner in 2008. An appeals court, however, reversed the conviction, noting that the evidence from the 2008 incident did not apply to the current case and could have misled the jury to believe that the man was dealing drugs at the time of his arrest.

The situation illustrates an important point: There are different types of evidence that may be used in a Minnesota court, but it may not always be admissible.

Knowing the basics

In general, there are two different kinds of evidence that may be used against someone facing criminal charges: physical items and testimony. Physical evidence refers to the items that are tangible and provide a link between a suspect and a crime. Those types of materials may include the following:

  • Biological elements such as hair, blood, semen or saliva
  • Chemical components such as paint chips and accelerants
  • Patterns or fractures on broken items such as adhesive tape or glass
  • Imprints, including tire tracks and footprints

Testimony may include either written statements or spoken words from eyewitnesses and the victim. This type of evidence could also include the results of a psychological exam as presented by a physician in court.

When is it relevant?

As the above case illustrates, not all testimony or physical evidence may be admissible in court. The Minnesota Judicial Branch mandates that prosecution may only use evidence against someone facing criminal charges if it has been deemed to make the existence of a fact relevant to the case more or less probable. The courts may exclude evidence if it is deemed to be able to mislead the jury, create an unfair prejudice or confuse the issues at stake.

For example, if someone is charged with drunk driving and the prosecution wants to use testimony demonstrating that the person is a member of a street gang, the evidence may be considered irrelevant because it could incite bias against the defendant.

People who have questions regarding the evidence in a trial should speak with a criminal defense attorney.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.
Minnesota recently passed a public safety bill that brings sweeping changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. While minors sometimes run afoul of the law, the juvenile justice system seeks to account for the differences between children and adults. Therefore, while the penalties for adults convicted of crimes focus on punishment, those for juveniles are aimed at diversion and restorative practices.