Criminal Defense

The Difference Between Direct vs. Circumstantial Evidence

October 18, 2017 by Seppi Esfandi in Criminal Defense  
Thumbnail for: The Difference Between Direct vs. Circumstantial Evidence

The Burden of Proof and Direct vs Circumstantial Evidence

The Burden of Proof and The Difference Between Direct vs Circumstantial Evidence, in Criminal Law, the ‘People’ represented by the District Attorney must prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction of the crime.

The prosecution must divulge to the criminal defense attorney all relevant discovery material well in advance, including the evidence they intend to bring against the defendant. This evidence can either be direct or circumstantial.

Direct vs Circumstantial Evidence

Circumstantial evidence is ‘evidence’ that relies on an inference (steps of reasoning or speculation) to connect it to a conclusion of fact. If there is no direct evidence to accompany circumstantial evidence, then there are multiple explanations of what might have happened at the scene of a crime.

If there are multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution, then the combined circumstantial evidence can favor one explanation over another, making the case stronger but not always absolute.

Example of Circumstantial Evidence:

The defendant was accused of stealing a diamond necklace from a jewelry store. It was not caught on camera.

  • Evidence of the defendant’s fingerprints were at the scene of the crime
  • The defendant was seen running out of the jewelry store
  • A woman saw the defendant carrying a small bag while running down the street
  • When the defendant was arrested later that day, he had $3000 cash on him

While all of these circumstances certainly look suspicious, there could be more than one explanation as to why these events occurred. Each one, and all of them combined are not a criminal act or indicative of a crime.

Direct Evidence

Direct evidence is evidence that directly connects the defendant with the crime he or she are charged with, without any inference (steps of reasoning or speculation) required. Direct evidence itself creates the single inference that supports the assumption of truth needed to convict a defendant of a crime.

In terms of testimony, a reliable witness testifying that they saw the defendant commit the crime is considered direct evidence. It should be noted that while witness testimony is strong, there are variations in the way people perceive factual events and can therefore be challenged, especially in instances of a single witness.

Example of Direct Evidence:

The defendant was accused of stealing a diamond necklace from a jewelry store. It was caught on camera.

  • Security footage clearly shows the defendant reaching behind the counter and grabbing a necklace
  • The defendant was seen by two witnesses (a customer and employee) taking the necklace
  • The defendant was caught trying to sell the necklace to another jewelry store
  • The defendant admits to the police that he took the necklace

Even just one of these pieces of evidence is likely enough to convict the defendant, and all of this evidence combined is what is called a ‘slam dunk’ or ‘open shut case’. The best the defendant can do is retain a lawyer to get the least impactful punishment for the crime that he committed.

How The Evidence is Used in Court

Evidence between the prosecution and the defense is first shared through a process called ‘discovery‘.

There is a misconception that circumstantial evidence is not admissible, but in reality, the prosecution often may pile a lot of circumstantial evidence against the defendant to lay a foundation of belief, and combine it with a single flimsy piece of ‘direct evidence’.

All of this evidence can be thoughtfully challenged by a seasoned defense attorney, and the case can be chipped away and eventually dismissed due to lack of evidence. If you do not have a proper criminal defense attorney, you may be convicted based on flimsy evidence and not even know it.

Related Articles:

Were You Arrested for a Crime?

If you are faced with criminal charges after being arrested in Los Angeles, or Southern California, you need to hire an attorney who has long-standing professional relationships with Judges and District Attorneys, as well as a proven track record. Don’t panic. Let us help and get you a FREE consultation 24/7.

Call Us: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an expert in Criminal Law who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.

Read our Client Reviews

Contact Us:         
Esfandi Law Group QR Code
Esfandi Law Group
Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

Get a Free Consultation

    Free Consultation Form