Can the prosecutor go forward with criminal charges if there is no evidence?
Many times we talk to people who are concerned that the state is going forward with charges against them or a family member with no "real" evidence. A typical scenario is a "he said, she said" were a witness and/or victim is saying that they stole something or used a weapon against them, but the property or weapon was never found or recovered.
Fingerprint and DNA evidence is also something that is often expected to be present in a case. Understandably, this often creates confusion for the individual charged with a crime.
Unfortunately, television and movies have misled a lot of people about what "evidence" really is. The use of forensic evidence such as fingerprints or DNA evidence is not the norm in the vast majority of cases.
These techniques are complicated and expensive to use. Also, physical evidence such as the property stolen or the weapon used often pops up at opportune times in a television show or movie and is used to convict the suspect.
Criminal cases in the real world will often involve only eyewitness testimony. In all courts in the U.S., eyewitness testimony is considered evidence and is enough to convict somebody. It is enough for a witness to come into court and simply say that person stole my property or that person was the one who threatened me with a weapon.
While testimony alone may be enough to convict someone, it does not change the fact that the state must prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. If the state only has witness testimony, their case may not be very strong. Humans are always subject to impeachment and having severe credibility issues that a jury may consider when weighing the evidence.
Physical evidence is generally more beneficial for the state to corroborate what their witnesses say and better persuade the jury that the person is guilty. The absence of physical evidence can be a good bargaining chip for a defense attorney to get a good plea offer from the prosecutor.
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