The free dictionary defines circumstantial evidence as: “indirect evidence. It is distinguished from direct evidence, which, if believed, proves the existence of a particular fact without an interference or presumption required. Circumstantial evidence relates to a series of facts other than the particular fact sought to be proved.”
Many people mistakenly assume that if the police only have circumstantial evidence, they won’t be able to press charges. The truth is that not only has circumstantial evidence been the reason people are charged with crimes in some cases, but the circumstantial evidence was also so strong that the defendant was found guilty by a jury.
While there are instances where the prosecution have won cases even though they don’t have anything but circumstantial evidence, the lack of direct evidence makes it much easier for the defendant’s legal team to argue that the defendant has been falsely accused of the crime. The lack of direct evidence makes it much harder for the prosecution to prove their case.
A few things will happen when the police have nothing but circumstantial evidence. Sometimes they will file charges even though the case isn’t as solid as they would like it to be simple so that they have more time and resources to continue investigating the case.
It’s not unusual for the prosecution to look at a case, realize that there is nothing but circumstantial evidence, and rush to offer a plea deal because they are worried that they won’t have a solid enough case to sway a jury. While the prosecution wants to convince the defendant to take a plea deal so that they can get some type of conviction, it’s not always in the defendant’s best interest to do so
The lack of direct evidence is why a defendant who is dealing with charges that are based on nothing but circumstantial evidence should enlist the services of a really good lawyer rather than rely on a public defender. While public defenders are really good at making sure that their client’s civil rights aren’t violated, they usually don’t have the time or energy needed to really prepare for a case that has little direct evidence. An experienced trial lawyer knows how to build a case around circumstantial evidence that will place doubt in the jury’s mind and potentially allow their client to walk away from the experience without a single conviction.