How Adequate Evidence Works

In law, evidence is any material item or statement of proof that you may present before a qualified tribunal. It is a way to determine the truth of someone under investigation. Adequate evidence is enough legitimate evidence to prove something true, whether an alibi or theory. Adequate evidence could take the form of lab results, ballistic forensics, testimonials, CCTV footage, or documents and photographs.

Adequate Evidence Example

Two neighbors get into an argument after neighbor A wakes up to discover that someone has vandalized his house. He checks his security camera and sees a tall, thin man in a ski mask sneaking around his backyard around 3am. After asking his neighbor, neighbor B, if he knew anything about it, he discovers the ski mask and spray paint can in the side yard of his neighbor B's house. Neighbor B's 17-year-old son also fits the description of the perpetrator. When he confronts his neighbor's son, he denies it—but neighbor A doesn't believe it and takes them to court.

Neighbor B, the defendant, is having trouble proving his son's innocence. Though the son's character checks out and his alibi is that his parents knew he was sleeping at that point, there is more evidence against him than for him. The description, the items found in the side yard, and the fact that a month prior, the son had gotten into trouble with neighbor A for accidentally crashing into his prized rose bush with his bike. So was vandalizing the neighbor's house an act of revenge?

The defendant requests that the case be extended into next week and it is approved. Neighbor B decides to take his son away for a few days to clear his head. While away, neighbor A's house is vandalized again by the same person. This time, neighbor A wakes up for the camera notification and runs out to stop the trespasser. He calls the cops, and they take him in. The trespasser admits to the previous act of vandalism which is adequate evidence to prove neighbor B's son's innocence.

History of Adequate Evidence

The modern, Western courts of the US are a far cry from the legal system of the Medieval Era, and even the early colonization of the Americas. Trials tended to be ruthless and unfair, especially when it came to "witch-hunting," and evidence was often based on illogical trains of thought. As much as we laugh at the witch trial scene in Monty Python's "Holy Grail," these practices—like throwing a "witch" into a lake with concrete shoes to see if they survived, thus proving her a witch—were acceptable.

But looking at less extreme situations, juries in the Dark Ages were self-informing. Juries would be made of witnesses who had sufficient information to inform a decision—"I saw..." "I heard..." etc. During the trial, the jury would present what they knew and reach a verdict accordingly.

Towards the end of the Medieval Era, juries were no longer self-informed bodies of "adequate evidence." They took a more passive role, mostly ignorant to the events that happened. This jury would undergo an instructional proceeding. During this proceeding, witnesses would present information to them. After hearing witnesses present evidence, the judge would instruct the jury on how to properly apply the law to the testimonies. This simple change allowed the law of evidence to develop within the legal system. Towards the end of the 1700s, the law of evidence became more of what we recognize today (Langbein, "Historical Foundations of the Law of Evidence).