Legal Dictionary

physical evidence

Definition of physical evidence

Further reading

Physical evidence is any evidence introduced in a trial in the form of a physical object, intended to prove a fact in issue based on its demonstrable physical characteristics. Physical evidence can conceivably include all or part of any object.

In a murder trial for example (or a civil trial for assault), the physical evidence might include biological evidence such as DNA left by the attacker on the victim's body, the body itself, the weapon used, pieces of carpet spattered with blood, or casts of footprints or tire prints found at the scene of the crime.

The role of the expert witness

Where physical evidence is of a complexity that makes it difficult for the average person to understand its significance, an expert witness may be called to explain to the jury the proper interpretation of the evidence at hand.

Physical and documentary evidence

A piece of evidence is not physical evidence if it merely conveys the information that would be conveyed by the physical evidence, but in another medium. For example, a diagram comparing a defective part to one that was properly made is documentary evidence-only the actual part, or a replica of the actual part, would be physical evidence. Similarly, a film of a murder taking place would not be physical evidence (unless it was introduced to show that the victims blood had splattered on the film), but documentary evidence (as with a written description of the event from an eyewitness).


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1.     lex situs
2.     lex causae
3.     lex fori
4.     lex loci celebrationis
5.     lex domicilii
6.     corporal punishment
7.     landed property
8.     Clayton's Case
9.     buggery
10.     lex loci delicti commissi