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What Is An Evidentiary Hearing? Civil And Criminal Perspectives

Evidentiary Hearing

An evidentiary hearing, have you heard about it? In any legal case, whether civil or criminal, the court may call for an evidentiary hearing. So, what is it? To put it simply, evidentiary hearings are when witnesses deliver sworn testimony before a judge.

Moreover, the evidence on the matter can also be documentary evidence. So, basically, the testimony is in support to the evidence. Evidentiary hearings are fairly common in criminal cases, especially ones that involve felonies (serious crimes). But they can also occur in civil matters like divorce or personal injury lawsuits.

What Is An Evidentiary Hearing?

When talking about litigation, there are two types of hearings.

Standard Hearings

A standard hearing involves legal arguments without evidence. They involve legal arguments that attorneys present to the judge. Therefore, there may not be a need for evidence at all. Let us say that a person fell and broke their arm. Now, they hire a dog bite attorney and claim that their neighbour’s dog bit them. This kind of case will be a standard heading and will most likely be dismissed.

Evidentiary Hearings

However, an evidentiary hearing requires a witness to deliver testimony under oath. This testimony is usually always relevant to the case. The process ensures that witnesses are available and deliver honest statements on the case.  

So, What Usually Goes On In An Evidentiary Hearing?

During an evidentiary hearing, the process usually starts with an attorney presenting a brief opening to the facts of the case. They talk to the judge and the court at large about the main issue in the case.

  • Next, they follow by calling a witness for direct examination. Therefore, the opposing attorney will naturally carry out a cross-examination of this witness. They double check all statements and facts.
  • If there is a need, sometimes there might even be a rebuttal. Thus, both parties can continue their cross-questioning till they find a loophole in the statement.
  • This sequence continues for a while and eventually documentary evidence stage starts.
  • Therefore, both sides produce documents through witness testimony.
  • For instance, let us say that there is a motion for sanctions. Now, if emails are important as documentary evidence, only a person having firsthand knowledge can enter them as evidence.
  • Naturally, this list will consist of the people who sent or received them.
  • Any evidence that either party shares have to come with an established identity. Moreover, there has to be familiarity and relevance to the case.

Therefore, questioning the witness allows one to establish the evidence’s connection to the case. So, for any piece of evidence, both parties have to send a request to admit it into evidence to the court’s records.

When Does An Evidentiary Hearing Take Place?

Evidentiary hearings are very common in legal matters where specific evidence or crucial issues need assessment by the court.

  • These hearings commonly arise in cases where there are challenges to the legality of evidence collection. For example, it can be the following cases.
  • Bail hearings to determine release conditions of a convict.
  • If it is for the evaluation of a defendant’s mental capacity to commit a wrongdoing.
  • Cases of sentencing where evidence could determine the verdict.

Therefore, evidentiary hearings have the aim to promote fair proceedings and help judges arrive at  informed judicial decisions.

When Is An Evidentiary Hearing Required In A Civil Case?

In the sphere of civil law, trust disputes usually contain various problems that need evidentiary hearings.

For instance, if a trustee plans to use trust funds for their defense, the plaintiff might try to stop this. Florida laws demand evidence to assess if the plaintiff has a chance to prove a breach of trust. This is just one instance. Moreover, there are many issues that mandate these hearings.

Civil Issues Requiring Evidentiary Hearings

1. Most injunctions usually need this type of hearing.

2. In probate or trust disputes, removing a personal representative or trustee often demands an evidentiary hearing.

3. Business cases may require this for appointing a receiver to manage a business.

Therefore, an Evidentiary hearing, similar to mini trials, are common in civil cases. Preparation for these hearings is therefore extremely important. Thus, lawyers prepare their clients for an evidentiary hearing quite similar to how they prepare them for a trial.

What Is An Evidentiary Hearing In A Criminal Case?

Let’s say that you have gone for jury duty. Can the defense lawyer or the prosecutor call you for an evidentiary hearing? Well, no. Only the witnesses delivering testimonies can do it under oath in evidentiary hearings.

So, what are the criminal cases that have evidentiary hearings?

Cases Where One Could Suspect Suppression of Evidence

When the defense challenges whether the evidence collection is legit, they can propose evidentiary hearings. For example, in case of a search or seizure, evidentiary hearings may occur to determine if the evidence is fit enough to be a part of the trial.

Thus, only after the hearing is over, the court will decide if the evidence is admissible.

Evidentiary Hearings Are A Part Of Bail Hearings

In cases where the defendant seeks bail or release before their trial, an evidentiary hearing is necessary. Therefore, through it the court will assess the flight risk or danger that the convict poses to the community.

If The Defense Claims Insanity

When there are doubts about a defendant’s mental capacity to be a part of the trial, these hearings take place. Thus, they will help the court to evaluate their competency.

To Conclude

Now that we are at the end of our article let us go through a quick recap. Before a trial in civil cases, either party may ask the judge to make decisions by filing requests. These are motions. Sometimes, these motions need the judge to look at evidence or listen to witnesses. That is exactly what we call an evidentiary hearing.

In criminal cases, there’s a similarly important early hearing called a preliminary hearing. It decides what will happen next. It happens after the state accuses someone, and the case decides if they are guilty or not. This hearing deals with the evaluation of evidence to see if the charges are true. Therefore, that is what evidentiary hearings are in criminal cases.

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Debkanya Bhattacharya
Debkanya is a lawyer turned writer. With an experience of 3 years, she is your go-to source for all things law. She has a soft corner for the US and international section. When the weekend arrives, you'll find her reading up on politics, Austen, or travel blogs over a cup of coffee.

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