Legal Updates

Common Objections in Pennsylvania

Objections can be the difference between a good defense and a great one.  Properly timed objections serve a multitude of purposes.  A good objection may exclude evidence from being admitted.  The objection may break the flow of the State’s case.  A good objection also shows the defense attorney’s skill.  Here are several objections that are commonly raised.  This post is for informational purposes, and is insufficient by itself to fully understand the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence.

Unfair Prejudice: The court may exclude relevant evidence that harms more than it helps.  The probative value is outweighed by unfair prejudice, confusing the issue, misleading the jury, etc.  Gruesome pictures of a crime scene may be unfairly prejudicial where they are used to inflame a jury.

Speculation: Courts value primary source evidence.  Evidence that is based on word of mouth, conjecture, or an opinion by a layperson is admissible.  The court will not allow witnesses to testify beyond their personal expertise.

Leading the witness: The prosecutor must avoid leading the witness to an answer through the form of a question.  The prosecutor is not allowed to testify through a compliant witnesses.  The rule recognizes that it is the witness who is supposed to provide the evidence.  It is permissible to lead a witness on cross examination.

Relevance:  Information that does not relate to the case at hand cannot be used.  Evidence put forth in a case must go to a fact at issue.

Non-responsive: The witness cannot present a long narrative to a question.  The witness must answer the questions they are asked.  A non-responsive answer may be stricken.

Improper Opinion: Lay witnesses are only allowed to testify to personal observations. An expert can draw opinions.  However, those opinions must be limited to the expert’s field of expertise.

Hearsay: Hearsay is presumed inadmissible in court.  Hearsay is an out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.  Courts preclude hearsay because it is unreliable.  In-person testimony is more reliable because it is subjected to cross examination.

The right objections at the right time may severely limit the State’s ability to present evidence, and concomitantly their ability to convict.  When you are looking for a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer, retain someone who is going to aggressively object to inadmissible evidence.  For a free consultation, call the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos at (267) 535-9776.