Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of exhibit


  1. A document or object shown to the court as evidence in a trial. They are each given a number or letter by the court clerk as they are introduced for future reference during the trial.

    Example: Weapon are frequently given as exhibits in criminal trials. Except with special permission of the court, exhibits are locked up in court custody until the trial is over.

Definition of exhibit


    < Latin exhibitus, perfect passive participle of exhibeō ("I hold forth, present, show, display") < ex ("out of, from") + habeō ("I have, hold"); see habit.


  • Rhymes: -ɪbɪt


to exhibit (third-person singular simple present exhibits, present participle exhibiting, simple past and past participle exhibited)

  1. (transitive) To display or show (something) for others to see, especially at an exhibition or contest.

    He wanted to exhibit his baseball cards.

  2. (transitive) To demonstrate.

    The players exhibited great skill.

  3. (transitive, law) To submit (a physical object) to a court as evidence.

    I now exhibit this bloody hammer.

  4. (intransitive) To put on a public display.

    Will you be exhibiting this year?


  • (display or show (something) for others to see): display, show, show off
  • (demonstrate): demonstrate, show

Further reading

An exhibit, in a criminal prosecution or a civil trial, is physical or documentary evidence brought before the jury. The artifact or document itself is presented for the jury's inspection. Examples may include a weapon allegedly used in the crime, an invoice or written contract, a photograph, or a video recording.

The main concept behind correct evidence handling is that the item recovered is the same as that produced in the court room.

The usual term applied to such handling is "chain of custody". The term denotes the links in the handling of the exhibit in question. For example, details of the item, the place, date, time it was recovered, and by whom it was recovered - the first link. The subsequent links in the chain refer to anyone required to handle the exhibit, mainly for identification purposes. The final link is the production of the item in court. This particular level of auditable handling is paramount when dealing with items of a forensic nature, as it reduces the opportunity for the defense to challenge the authenticity of the item.

The chain of custody can be less stringent when dealing with property which has a unique identifying feature like a serial number. In such a case, the physical security becomes the main concern of the person recovering the item. Such security is normally achieved by booking the item into a central evidence room.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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