Real evidence

For the film, see Physical Evidence.

Real evidence, physical evidence, or material evidence is any material object that plays some role in the matter that gave rise to the litigation, introduced in a trial, intended to prove a fact in issue based on the object's demonstrable physical characteristics.


Examples include the written contract, the defective part or defective product, the murder weapon, and the gloves used by an alleged murderer.

Trace evidence, such as fingerprints, glove prints and firearm residue, is also a type of real evidence. Real evidence is usually reported upon by an expert witness with appropriate qualifications to give an opinion. This normally means a forensic scientist or one qualified in forensic engineering.

In a murder trial for example (or a civil trial for assault), the physical evidence might include biological evidence such as DNA left by the attacker on the victim's body, the body itself, the weapon used, pieces of carpet spattered with blood, or casts of footprints or tire prints found at the scene of the crime.


Admission of real evidence requires authentication, demonstration of relevance, and a showing that the object is in "the same or substantially the same condition" now as it was on the relevant date. An object of real evidence is authenticated through witness statements or by circumstantial evidence called the chain of custody.

Physical and documentary evidence

Documentary evidence is the written, spoken, or recorded information on an "object", rather than the object itself. For example, a diagram comparing a defective part to one that was properly made is documentary evidence—only the actual part, or a replica of the actual part, would be physical evidence. Similarly, a film of a murder taking place would not be physical evidence (unless it was introduced to show that the victims blood had splattered on the film), but documentary evidence (as with a written description of the event from an eyewitness).

Physical and demonstrative evidence

Demonstrative evidence includes charts and diagrams that provide statistics used to benefit the testimony. An example of demonstrative evidence may be a map. This is no longer considered physical evidence because it's relevance has to do with what is stated on the object, not the object itself.

Out-of-court Inspection

Real evidence can sometimes be impossible to bring to court. If the evidence can't be brought to court, a "view" can be arranged. A "view" is when the judge agrees to go and see the physical evidence outside of court to examine it.


    Browsing, B. (n.d.). Real evidence. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from What is “real evidence”? Is it the same thing as “physical evidence”? Retrieved September 19, 2016, from Real and Demonstrative Evidence - FindLaw. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2016, from

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