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Circumstantial vs. Direct Evidence in Wisconsin Criminal Cases

Posted on in Criminal Defense

circumstantial evidence, direct evidence, Wisconsin criminal cases, Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer, facing criminal chargesBeing arrested and charged with a crime can be a frightening prospect. A criminal conviction has serious consequences to a person’s life, finances, career, and freedom. However, those who are facing criminal charges may not understand the laws involved in their case, the processes followed during an investigation, or their options for defense.

One aspect of criminal prosecutions that can often cause confusion is the different types of evidence that can be used to show a person’s guilt. During a Wisconsin criminal case, it is important to understand the difference between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. 

Direct Evidence

Evidence that clearly demonstrates a defendant committed a crime is known as direct evidence. Factual evidence that incontrovertibly shows a person committed the alleged offense may be used to meet the standards for proving guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. Examples of direct evidence include:

  • Security camera footage showing a person breaking into a store and stealing items;
  • An audio recording of a person admitting to committing a crime;
  • Ballistics tests that show a bullet was fired by a specific firearm;
  • Eyewitness testimony that a person saw the defendant commit a crime;
  • The defendant’s fingerprints on a weapon used to commit murder; and
  • Computer records showing a person illegally used someone else’s credit card.

Circumstantial Evidence

In many cases, direct evidence of a crime does not exist and prosecutors must use evidence that implies the defendant committed the alleged offense. This is known as circumstantial evidence, and examples of this type of evidence include:

  • Eyewitness testimony that a person was seen fleeing from the scene of a crime;
  • A person’s fingerprints found at the scene of the crime alongside other people’s fingerprints;
  • An audio recording of the defendant stating his or her intent to commit a crime before the alleged crime actually occurred;
  • Harassing emails or text messages a defendant sent to a person who was later assaulted; and
  • A person’s browser history showing how he or she searched for information about the tools used to commit the crime of which he or she is accused.

While a single piece of circumstantial evidence may not be enough to demonstrate a person’s guilt, multiple pieces of evidence may be used together, and the prosecutor may ask the jury to “connect the dots” to determine that the defendant committed the alleged offense.

Contact a Milwaukee Criminal Defense Attorney 

When you are facing criminal charges, it is important to understand the evidence that could be used by the prosecution to demonstrate your guilt. To secure a conviction, prosecutors must convince a jury that you committed the alleged offense beyond all reasonable doubt. 

At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP our skilled attorneys can help you understand your options for defense, including finding gaps or inconsistencies in the evidence or showing that the prosecution has not met the reasonable doubt standard. To schedule a consultation with a Milwaukee, WI criminal defense lawyer, call our office at 414-271-1440.





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