Evidence for Court

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Evidence is information a party may present in court to prove their case.

Evidence can be in two main forms:

1.  People: witness testimony

  • The party involved in the lawsuit
  • Other people who have direct and relevant information about the case
  • People who keep records
  • Experts
2.  Things: exhibits
  • Photographs
  • Records: police, medical, bills, appraisals, school records, etc.
  • Other documents or things

In either case, the judge will want to know: Why is this witness or exhibit helpful in deciding your case?

Rules of Evidence

There are rules of evidence that everyone must follow. These rules help ensure that the judge gets reliable, relevant and accurate evidence to consider when making decisions about your case.

Among the most important of these rules are:

  • Generally, people can only talk about what they know first hand – what they themselves saw, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted. (There are some exceptions to this rule.)
  • The other party has the right to cross-examine anyone whose words (whether written or spoken) are being considered.
  • All testimony must be relevant information.
NOTE:  Different case types may have their own rules. For example, how long you have to do things or how many questions you can ask are ruled by case type. To read the California Evidence Code on-line, click here. Opens new window 


Using People as Evidence: Witnesses

A witness is a person called by either side in a lawsuit to give testimony before the judge or jury. It could be the party involved in the lawsuit, other people who have direct and relevant information about the case, people who keep records, or experts who are qualified to give an opinion in an area of the case. Usually, the witness must be present in court for the hearing or trial.

Using Things as Evidence: Exhibits

An exhibit is a document or an object used by either side in a lawsuit to prove his or her claim. Exhibits could be financial statements, medical records, counselor’s reports, photographs, tools, equipment or other things.

NOTE: There are a large number of laws which set standards for what evidence can be used in a court. Together, these laws are called the California Code of Evidence. Everyone, even a person who represents him- or herself, has to follow these laws when he or she is getting and presenting evidence for court. Neither the judge nor the court staff can assist you in preparing or presenting your case.

If you started working on your case without an attorney, you may wish to seek the help of an attorney now. If, for financial reasons, you cannot hire a private attorney to handle your whole case, you can ask attorneys if they would be willing to help you for part of your case. Or, you may be eligible to get help from a legal aid office.

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