As cellphone recordings become more commonplace in reporting criminal or controversial activities, some people assume that similar evidence is necessary to convict someone. Unfortunately, many get convicted in the United States without tangible links to the crime, such as recordings, fingerprints, DNA or any direct proof at all.
With a recent study from Penn State estimating that over 6% of the current prison population is wrongfully incarcerated, it is essential to understand how evidence, or lack thereof, can affect the final ruling on guilt in a criminal case.
Direct evidence demonstrates obvious and traceable involvement in a crime. Circumstantial evidence is not so clear-cut and is not based on direct observation. People create indirect conclusions from information relevant to the case, police accounts or statements from witnesses that may not have seen the actual crime. While the evidence has to meet the established standards of truth, it is still possible to convict on circumstantial evidence alone.
Constructive possession is one type of criminal charge wherein direct proof is unnecessary for a conviction. Constructive possession alleges that, despite the person not having an illegal item on them, he or she still knew about it and could control it. On the other hand, with physical possession, authorities find the proof on the person’s body or in that person’s control. Drug charges can result in constructive possession convictions.
Juries rely on testimonies and circumstantial evidence when direct proof is unavailable. Even if police and witness accounts are dishonest or incorrect, a judge and jury could find a person guilty.