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What is Testimonial Evidence?

Evidence is one of the basic foundations of any criminal or civil proceeding. The rules of evidence govern what is admissible in a court of law. In any judicial hearing, a ruling against or in favor of the accused depends on the strength of evidence presented in the course of the trial. The common types of evidence are real, documentary, demonstrative, and testimonial. The following web page seeks to cover different elements of testimonial evidence including what it is, admissibility rules, and who qualifies to offer such evidence.


What is Testimonial Evidence?

According to the National Forensic Science Technology Center, testimonial evidence enables investigators to recreate a crime scene or develop a series of events as they occurred. Testimonial evidence is considered to be more subjective than physical evidence because it relies on the witness’s memory or understanding which can be incomplete or inaccurate. Testimonial evidence does not need any kind of evidence to make it admissible. It simply implies what is confessed in a court proceeding by a viable witness.

Testimonial evidence may be used for proving or disproving different things. It can be used by both the prosecution and the defense. For example, the prosecution may summon a police officer to confirm the identity of the defendant as the person who was at the scene of a crime and the events that transpired. The defense may also use it to summon the defendant to offer testimony of what they did or did not do.

Testimonial evidence also applies when the prosecution or defense summons a professional witness. These are witnesses who are equipped with special expertise in a particular discipline relevant to the case. For example handwriting specialists can confirm handwriting while a psychiatrist can confirm a person’s mental state

Testimonial evidence can be presented in form of a live witness, who is placed under oath, and subject to direct examination. Live witnesses are questioned by the party that called them to the stand and cross-examined by the opposing party.


Admissibility Rules of Testimonial Evidence

The main rules of the admissibility of testimonial evidence are materiality, relevance, and competence. If any evidence, whether testimonial or physical, is material, relevant, and competent.

Evidence is considered material if presented to prove a fact which is an issue in the court case. For example, if the pertinent issue is a breach of contract, a witness whose evidence proves it was raining when both parties signed the contract is relevant but immaterial. However, a witness’s testimony would be material if it proves that the defendant did not perform some of his obligations under the contract.

Evidence is considered relevant if it tends to increase or decrease the probability of what it is introduced to disprove or prove. Therefore, for evidence to be regarded as relevant, it should not necessarily make certain the fact for which it is introduced. It should only increase the likelihood of a particular fact for which it is used. For example, if evidence seeks to prove that the accused bit the plaintiff’s nose during a fight, while an eye witness’s testimony would be deemed relevant, so would the testimony of someone who heard the parties exchange obscenities before fighting.

Evidence is considered to be competent if what is being presented meets some basic conditions of reliability. The showing that such evidence satisfies those tests or any conditions of admissibility is known as foundational evidence. When the conflicting side objects that the response to a thing, document, or question is without sufficient foundation, they are actually saying that the evidence is not competent.


Who is A Competent Witness

A competent witness has to satisfy four requirements:

  • They must be under oath or any similar substitute
  • They must be knowledgeable about what they are going to testify. This means they must have perceived something with their senses that applies to the case in question
  • They must have a recollection of what they perceived
  • They must be in a position to relate what they communicated

Testimonial evidence is one of the only forms of proof that does not need reinforcing evidence for it to be admissible in court. In many criminal or civil proceedings, testimonial evidence is almost guaranteed to feature at some point in the trial. Knowledge of the admissibility rules and competence of witnesses can be instrumental when you are called to testify as a witness in court proceeding.

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