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Definition of Circumstantial Evidence

Circumstantial evidence or indirect evidence is not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the facts, but is evidence which is used to draw inferences. It is possible to obtain a conviction with the use of circumstantial evidence if it is backed up by corroborating evidence and other factual information.

For example, a criminal trial may include information from a witness who arrived at a murder scene to see another person holding a bloody knife. Although the person holding the knife could have committed the murder they also could have arrived on the scene after the crime had occurred and simply picked up the knife. It could have been after they picked up the knife that the witness arrived at the scene. The witness may at that time assume the defendant committed the murder, but they did not actually witness the event. Corroborating evidence may be needed from another source such as an eye witness to the crime to prove the person holding the knife actually killed the victim.

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