A Former Prosecutor Defending Clients in Wyoming and South Dakota
In a criminal assault case, the prosecution must prove certain elements of a crime to persuade a judge or jury to find in its favor and secure a conviction. This is done through the presentation of evidence.
Legal evidence is anything that a judge or jury can consider in a court of law that tends to make a fact in question more or less likely to have happened. It can include spoken and written testimony, exhibits such as physical objects, documents, and demonstrative evidence.
Different rules govern different types of evidence and address the amount of evidence needed, the quality of the evidence, and whether the evidence should be considered. Other rules address hearsay, authenticity, relevance, privilege, opinions, expert testimony, identification, and rules of physical evidence.
The rules of evidence are intended to be fair to both parties and to prevent allegations from being made without provable facts. In practice, a judge will make decisions on what evidence can and cannot be considered.
In order to be considered, evidence must be relevant. This means that the evidence presented must make a fact in question more or less likely to have occurred. However, evidence that is relevant can be excluded if it is unfairly prejudicial, which can occur if the potential value of the evidence is outweighed by the danger of undue prejudice to one party, or if the evidence is misleading or is likely to cause confusion.
Documents offered as evidence must be authentic (i.e. the document is, in fact, what the party offering it claims it t be). Examples of evidence that needs to be authenticated include newspapers, public documents, and documents that have been notarized. The standard for authenticating evidence is generally low, and the authenticity of documents is rarely called into question.
Testimonial evidence is offered by a witness who has sworn to tell the truth. The rules regarding witness testimony address how an attorney can question a witness and what the witness can testify about.
Hearsay is one of the most technical and complicated areas of evidence laws and prohibits a witness from using an out of court statement to “prove the truth of the matter asserted.” However, there are so many nuanced exceptions to the hearsay rule that many out of court statements can still be admitted into evidence.
In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard of proof in the American legal system.
In Wyoming, “A person is guilty of simple assault if, having the present ability to do so, he unlawfully attempts to cause bodily injury to another.” WY Stat §6-2-501. A person is guilty of criminal battery if they “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person by use of physical force.”
To prove an assault and battery charge, prosecutors will use every piece of evidence they can find that tends to show that a defendant is guilty. In an assault case, this usually includes eyewitness testimony from witnesses to the altercation and from the victim him- or her-self.
Of course, the victim of an alleged assault is biased, so the prosecutor will try to bolster their case by finding other, unbiased witnesses who saw the altercation.
Prosecutors will also introduce photographs of the injuries to the victim and, if it exists, will use video evidence of the altercation.
Of course, video does not capture everything and a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to present evidence of words and actions of the victim and the defendant before the camera started rolling. Witnesses who saw the victim and the defendant fighting, or who saw the build-up to the altercation can testify about what both the victim and the defendant were doing before punches were thrown and whether the victim might have actually been the initial aggressor.
Any witness has a history, and the prosecution and the defense will both try to learn about a witness’s past to either improve their credibility or make them appear less credible. That is the primary reason criminal defense lawyers discourage a defendant from testifying. Any witness that testifies is subject to cross-examination, and evidence of prior crimes and bad acts is fair game. In an assault case, there is too great a risk that the prosecutor will uncover something in the defendant’s past and use it to make the defendant look bad.
The same rules apply to witnesses for the prosecution. Even though they are not on trial, a defense lawyer can question a witness about prior criminal convictions, a history of disagreements with the defendant, and the circumstances that led up to the alleged assault.
If you or someone you care about is facing Wyoming assault and battery charges, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help. At Just Criminal Law, Wyoming criminal defense attorney Christina L. Williams and her team of criminal defense professionals represent people who have been accused of assault and battery. We will thoroughly investigate the case against you, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and present evidence on your behalf that can be used to help secure a Not Guilty verdict.
Christina Williams is a former prosecutor who has been practicing criminal law since 2001. She will use her experience, expertise, and insight to defend you and protect your one shot at justice.
Learn why clients choose us, then contact a member of our team today to schedule your free personalized case review session. Call us at 307-686-6556, email email@example.com, or complete our online form.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.