Laying Foundation For Evidence - How To Introduce Evidence In Court

by Robert Loughry | Oct 20, 2017 8:00:26 AM | Trial Presentation, Litigation Services

Laying foundation for evidence in court refers to the facts that have to be presented before a particular piece of evidence can be admitted. The facts presented as part of the foundation go to establishing the evidence offered as both relevant and authentic enough to be relied upon by the fact finder. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of how to introduce evidence in court and opportunities for you to improve your arguments.

Establishing The Foundation For Testimonial Evidence

When laying foundation for evidence, the kind of foundation needed depends on the kind of evidence offered. If the evidence offered is a testimonial, the foundation consists of asking the witness some questions before getting into the testimony that the party who called the witness seeks to elicit. These foundational questions may include questions about the witness’s name, age, employment status, and involvement in the case. The goal is to set the grounds for why the witness’s testimony is valuable to the case.

If the witness is an expert, the foundational questions may cover more of the background that makes the witness an expert. The witness may be asked more questions about their educational background and any relevant certification. If the witness has to be certified as an expert before they can testify as an expert witness, the foundational questions would be used to establish the person’s status as an expert.

Laying Foundation For Physical Evidence

When a party seeks to introduce a document or another piece of physical evidence, the foundation needs to be laid by a person with personal knowledge of the evidence. Often, the best person to lay the foundation for a document is the person who created the document—although this person is not always available to testify. If the evidence was created by a machine or computer, the witness laying the foundation for the evidence to be admitted may have to testify as to the process that was used to create the evidence.

How To Introduce Photo & Video Evidence In Court

For photographs and video evidence to be admitted, a witness with familiarity with the scene depicted in the material has to testify as to its authenticity. The witness must also testify as to their familiarity with the scene on the day that the photograph was taken, before being asked whether the photograph is an accurate representation of the scene on the day in question.

The Wrong Foundation Allows For Objection

If the proper foundation for evidence is not laid, the opposing party may object to its admission. At this point, the party that wants to admit the evidence may be given a chance to lay a better foundation, and if they cannot, the evidence may not be admitted. In some jurisdictions, a party may ask the court to specify which foundation is lacking, if the court continuously sustains objections based on a lack of foundation.

Even if the party presenting the evidence is able to lay the proper foundation for the evidence, the other party can still object on other grounds. Laying the foundation is only the first part to ensuring the admissibility of evidence.

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