What is Admissible Evidence and Why is it Important?

Juries and courts decide cases based upon what evidence is introduced in court or at trial. “Evidence” is some sort of proof of what happened, and evidence being “admitted” means that the evidence may be offered to the jury. If evidence is ruled by the court to be inadmissible, the jury will never see it and many not consider it. If certain evidence is not admitted in trial, the jury’s decision may be based only upon that limited information, which may not provide an accurate picture of the events.

Let’s take for example an automobile accident where who is at fault is in dispute. After two vehicles collide, there are three witnesses that blame the accident on car A. There is one witness that blames the accident on car B. At trial, if the only witness that provides admissible evidence is the one that blames the accident on car B, the court or jury will most likely decide that the accident was caused by the driver of car B, even though the majority of the witnesses—three times as many, in fact – actually prove that car A caused the accident. If the attorney for the driver of car B cannot provide the witnesses testimony of the three witnesses, the driver of car B will lose. How does the driver of car B avoid this inaccurate result?

The courts follow the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) regarding the admission of evidence at trial. The CCP promulgates very specific rules and requirements for the admissibility of evidence. For example, if the attorney for the driver of car B only secures written witnesses statements from the three witnesses for car B’s case, the driver of car B will probably still lose. Why? Because written witness statements are seldom admissible at trial, particularly if the witness that provided the statement does not appear in person and testify.

What if the attorney for the driver of car B produces one of the three witnesses at trial, and that witness testifies that two of the other witnesses will also testify that car A was at fault, but the attorney for car B’s driver does not produce those two other witnesses? The driver of car B probably cannot have the witness offer opinions about what the other witnesses may or may not testify to, thereby creating additional problems for the driver of car B.

Suppose the driver of car B’s lawyer seeks to play a video of a witness, testifying under oath before the camera, that car A was at fault? The CCP may preclude this evidence as well, especially if the witness is not present in court to affirm the statements made in the video. Even if the witness appears, the video may not be admissible.

In order for the driver of car B to be able to offer admissible evidence of the opinions of the three witnesses that car A was actually at fault, it is highly likely that the driver of car B’s attorney must actually produce, live and in person, each and every one of the witnesses at trial, regardless of whether or not those witnesses provided written statements before the trial.

Due to the CCP’s sometimes particular and stringent requirements for admissibility of evidence, it is very important that the client—no matter whether it is an aggrieved person seeking compensation or a person or entity in defense – secure a lawyer with enough experience and familiarity with trial practice so that counsel knows well the CCP and the rules of evidence.