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What is Inadmissible Evidence?

Written by™ on behalf of Tyler D. Bailey, Esq. with Bailey Law Firm, L.L.C..

What is Inadmissible Evidence?

Written by™ on behalf of Tyler D. Bailey, Esq., a Criminal Law attorney based in South Carolina.


Inadmissible evidence refers to any evidence that cannot be presented before a jury for one or more reasons. While states often have individual rules regarding what evidence can be presented in court, the Federal Rules of Evidence established as law in 1975 detail which evidence is generally admissible or inadmissible in court. For evidence to be presented in trial, the judge must first approve it. If a trial is conducted, a verdict is established, but if a Court of Appeals decides a piece of evidence presented should have been considered inadmissible, the case may be tried again.

Evidence may be considered inadmissible in the following situations:

  • The evidence was improperly obtained. This is a common reason for evidence to be tossed out or otherwise considered inadmissible. If the evidence used in a criminal case was obtained by means that violated the defendant’s civil rights, that evidence cannot be used in court. For example, if evidence was obtained in an illegal search and seizure committed without a warrant, that evidence cannot be used against them in court. This rule also applies to arrests that were made without probable cause, as well as confessions that may have been coerced.
  • The evidence has a prejudicial value greater than the value it would contribute to the case (i.e. probative value). This is an important element to consider in determining what evidence is or is not admissible. For example, if a piece of evidence serves to highlight the poor character of the defendant but otherwise does not offer valuable insight to the case at hand, it’s prejudicial value might be greater than its probative value. Evidence with a high prejudicial value could engage pre-existing biases and prejudices among the jury, making any decision made by the jurors unreliable.
  • The evidence is hearsay. There are some exceptions to the hearsay rule, in which hearsay evidence may be admissible in court. However, for the most part hearsay evidence consists of statements made under oath about information that was recited out of court and often cannot be presented before a jury in court. The intention of this rule is to prevent baseless gossip from playing a part in any convictions.
  • The evidence is not relevant to the case at hand. This is one of the biggest rules of evidence which may confuse those who do not practice law. All evidence presented before a jury must be relevant to the matter at hand. For example, if a defendant is facing allegations of drunk driving and has a history of battery and assault convictions, those convictions do not bear on the drunk driving charge. Because the two are considered unrelated, one cannot be used to support the other in court. In many cases, past convictions are not admissible in court.

If you or a loved one are convicted on charges which may have been secured using inadmissible evidence, you may be eligible to file an appeal. Rather than re-trying the original case right off the bat, a Court of Appeals will examine the trial itself to discern if any evidence used to garner the verdict should have been inadmissible. If this is the case, the defendant may be eligible for a retrial. To learn more about what evidence is and is not considered inadmissible, or for help with your case, reach out to a criminal defense attorney.

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