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How Circumstantial Evidence Can Be Used Against You in a VA Criminal Case

If you’re charged with a crime in Virginia, it’s critical to understand what evidence the prosecutor will use to try against you—especially how circumstantial evidence is used in criminal cases. You also need an experienced Manassas criminal defense lawyer at The Wilson Law Firm who can craft a robust defense and has strategies to counter the charges. Here’s what you should know.

What’s Considered Circumstantial Evidence in Virginia?

In the Commonwealth, like in many other jurisdictions, a prosecutor can use circumstantial evidence to connect the dots and infer guilt, even if there’s no direct proof of the alleged offense. Knowing what circumstantial evidence entails is crucial for mounting a strong defense. 

Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence that implies a fact rather than directly proving it. It relies on inference and deduction to establish that the circumstances prove the accused's guilt. It can be used in both misdemeanor and felony cases in Virginia.

Prosecutors often use circumstantial evidence to create a narrative connecting the accused to the alleged crime. They use it to prove intent or when they don’t have much or any direct evidence linking the defendant to the offense. 

For instance, if a person is accused of shoplifting a green suede coat but no one saw them take it, a witness’s testimony that they spotted the defendant wearing a coat matching that description later that day could be circumstantial evidence to prove the theft.

Circumstantial evidence can also be used in more serious felony offenses, such as murder. For example, an accused could be charged with killing a victim by shooting them. There may not have been any witnesses to the crime. However, if a witness testifies that they heard gunshots and saw the defendant running from the crime scene holding a gun, the prosecution could use this circumstantial evidence to try to convince a jury of the defendant's guilt.

Differences Between Direct and Circumstantial Evidence

Direct evidence proves a fact or an element of the crime. It can be physical evidence or witness testimony based on firsthand accounts of what they saw. 

The judge or jury doesn’t make presumptions when direct evidence is presented. They trust the fact is true if they believe the witness' testimony or the physical evidence introduced by the prosecutor. Examples of direct evidence include:

  • Testimony from a witness who was present when the offense was committed
  • The accused's fingerprints on a weapon allegedly used during the crime
  • Security camera footage showing the defendant fleeing the crime scene
  • Audio recording of the defendant confessing

On the other hand, circumstantial evidence requires the court to make inferences based on the information presented.

Facing a case built on circumstantial evidence doesn’t mean you cannot successfully fight the charges you face. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers understand the nuances of circumstantial evidence and work diligently to develop a strategic defense. This may involve challenging the reliability of the circumstantial evidence, presenting alternative explanations for the facts, or highlighting inconsistencies in the prosecution's narrative which show they can’t prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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