Circumstantial Evidence Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Circumstantial Evidence, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Circumstantial Evidence?

It refers to the fact and evidence which is not by the eyewitness but which indirectly gives a proof that a person is guilty or not. It is a fact derived out of certain situation before, during and after the crime from surroundings indicating to a fact or evidence.For instance – a phone call before the murder, footprints at the location of crime etc.

History and Meaning of Circumstantial Evidence

Circumstantial evidence refers to the proof that is not based on personal observation or direct knowledge of a fact in issue. The circumstances in connection with the particular case support the inference of the fact sought to be proved. It is gathered through observation of different pieces of information that, when put together, lead to a logical conclusion. Historical use of such evidence has and continues to serve as pieces of evidence that influence and corroborate evidence that is harder to obtain.

Examples of Circumstantial Evidence

  1. A person's clothing is covered in blood, and the victim was stabbed to death.
  2. A person's fingerprints are found at the scene of a burglary, and no one else has a key.
  3. A suspect is seen running from the scene with a gun and later found with a gun's residue on their hands.
  4. The defendant was near the location of the robbery and had a similar appearance to the rough facial hair described by the victim.

Legal Terms Similar to Circumstantial Evidence

  1. Hearsay: Evidence presented by a witness not based on that witness’ personal knowledge but rather on what someone else said.
  2. Direct evidence: Evidence that if believed proves the existence of a particular fact.
  3. Prima Facie: Evidence that is sufficient to establish a fact, unless rebutted.