Circumstantial evidence is evidence that can only prove a fact by inference. Circumstantial evidence is referred to as “indirect evidence” and is indirect proof of a proposition, event, or occurrence. Circumstantial evidence does not directly prove the fact to be decided, but is evidence of another fact or group of facts from which the fact finder (jury) may conclude the truth of the fact in question.
For example, the identity of a shooter in a bar could be proven directly through eyewitness testimony (direct evidence). It could also be proven indirectly through circumstantial evidence such as: Bob was seen running from the bar shortly after the shooting; Bob’s wallet was found at the bar; Bob was overheard by patrons at the bar arguing with the victim of the shooting; three days after the crime, Bob was found in possession of a gun similar to the one seen and described by patrons at the bar.
None of the above facts taken individually add up to direct proof that Bob committed the crime. There may be some reasonable explanation for each one of those facts. In combination, however, they make a very convincing inference of guilt. In other words, the indirect circumstances tend to establish the likelihood Bob was the shooter. In sum, circumstantial evidence is not second-class evidence; it is as valid, admissible, and as powerful as direct evidence.
If you have a question regarding evidence in a criminal case, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn how specific types of evidence will impact your case.