Presenting evidence in court is all about preparation and convincing the judge why it matters. This guide explains what's considered evidence in Ohio and how to use it to support your case.
If you’ve ever watched a courtroom television show, you might have heard phrases like “admissible,” “inadmissible” and “exhibit A”—all used to describe evidence. But what do these words mean? This article on submitting evidence will explain. It will also describe the process you will need to follow if you plan on submitting evidence at your hearing.
Make sure it's admissible
First of all, it’s important to understand what kind of evidence is considered “admissible.” That is, you must prove to the Judge why it matters.
Showing that evidence is admissible might sound hard or complicated. But the goal is simple: demonstrate to the Judge why and how a piece of evidence supports your case.
Here are some examples of what kind of evidence is considered admissible in Ohio:
- Your testimony, or verbal description of what happened
- Testimony of witnesses, or people who can support your side of the story
- Documents, receipts and other written proof
- Photographs and videos
It's important to remember that it's the quality of your evidence that matters the most, not how much of it you have.
This article focuses on documents or photographs. Learn more about working with witnesses as evidence.
Organize your materials in the order you plan on submitting them
As you get ready for your hearing, write out how you want to present your case and what evidence you need to support it. For example, you might present your case and supporting evidence in the order of importance. Or you might present them in the order of when things happened.
If you’re presenting photographs, receipts or documents as evidence, make sure you bring at least three copies.
When a piece of evidence is presented in Court, it should be referred to as an “exhibit.” The Court may tell you how to label your exhibits so that it is clear which side has presented the exhibit. For example, the Court may tell you to label your exhibits with numbers (Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2, and so on) and the other side to label their exhibits with letters (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and so on). Write the name of the exhibit—i.e. "Exhibit 1"—on each of the three copies of that exhibit.
Follow the Court processes to make sure it's admissible
When you build a house, you can’t just stick up some walls and a roof and call it a day. You have to lay the foundation first. Otherwise, the house will come crashing down. The same goes for presenting evidence. It’s a process that must be built, step by step. Otherwise, it won't be able to support your case.
Here’s an example of how to submit evidence that's considered admissible.
Mary is suing John for damaging her car in an accident. She has a photo of her car and John’s car after the accident, which she wants to submit as evidence. Can she just show the judge the photo and rest her case? No way. Either during her testimony or cross-examination of John, she should lay the foundation for presenting the evidence like this:
- Pass around the three copies of her photo and state, "this is Exhibit A" or "this is Exhibit 1." Again, the Court may tell Mary how to label the evidence, but if they don't, she can decided how to label the exhibits.
- Say what the photo is and when she took it.
- Ask John questions about the photo, like “Do you recognize this photo?” “Is your car in this photo?” “What does this photo show?”
- Ask the judge for permission to submit the exhibit—that is, the photo—as evidence.
- The judge will ask John or his lawyer if they object, or disagree, with the evidence. Mary will leave it up to the judge to decide if her evidence is admissible or inadmissible.
If a Judge decides that a piece of evidence is admissible, they will allow it to become part of the case. The Judge will factor the evidence into their decision.
If a Judge decides evidence is “inadmissible,” that means it can’t be used in Court and the Judge won’t consider it in their decision.
That's why it's so important to prepare ahead of time and build your case, so that your evidence can support your side of the story.