Understanding Circumstantial Evidence in Virginia Criminal Courts

In many criminal cases, the Commonwealth cannot prove a case by direct evidence. Direct evidence is evidence such as eyewitness testimony, scientific evidence, or a confession. If the Commonwealth cannot prove a case by direct evidence alone, then it must rely on circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is evidence that proves the circumstances that are consistent with guilty and inconsistent with innocence. When the Commonwealth relies on circumstantial evidence, they must exclude every reasonable theory of innocence.

Circumstantial evidence is mostly used to prove criminal intent. Intent is an element in almost every criminal case, and it is rarely as easy as someone stating their criminal intent. Typically proof of someone’s intent is deduced by their actions and conduct. Another example of circumstantial evidence is constructive possession of drugs. Even if the Commonwealth can’t prove that you had drugs on you, they can prove possession if the circumstances prove knowledge and control over the drugs.

As a defendant in a criminal case, circumstantial evidence is often used to prove weak cases. The Court and juries often rely on these inferences to overcome the presumption of innocence. If you are being charged with a crime based on circumstantial evidence, an experienced criminal defense attorney can be vital in pointing out to the Judge or jury the other reasonable theories of innocence that the Commonwealth cannot disprove.

If you find yourself charged with a crime with no direct evidence, call the criminal defense attorney’s at Winslow and McCurry at 804.423.1382.