Criminal Charges, Evidence, and Objections

A Texas criminal defense attorney presenting evidence in court

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If you have ever sunk your teeth into a television crime series, you are likely well acquainted with attorneys standing up in court to present lots of Exhibit As and to object to this, that, and the other. While some TV legal tactics may not be accurate, evidence and objections really do play a large part in criminal cases.

Evidence allows the prosecution to build their case and allows your attorney to build your strongest defense. The law has strict guidelines and regulations that guide which evidence is allowed in criminal cases and which is not.

Testimony is an important kind of evidence that often plays a major role in deciding cases, but not all testimony is allowed in criminal cases. Both sides have the right to object to specific testimony, and it is up to the judge to determine whether the objection or the original question (or testimony) stands.

Even if the judge does not agree with a defense attorney’s objection at the time, however, the attorney’s efforts can help set the stage for a future appeal.

While there are many kinds of legal objections, the most common break down into several distinct categories, and better understanding them may help you better understand your own case proceedings.

If you or someone you love is facing a criminal charge of any kind, it is time to reach out to the professional legal counsel of an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.

The Role of Evidence in Your Case

If you are accused of a crime, you and your dedicated criminal defense attorney will present evidence to bolster your case and to help dispute the prosecution’s case. The prosecution will, in turn, use the available evidence to bolster its own version of events. In other words, every criminal case hinges on evidence, and the legal standards are exacting.

The Kinds of Evidence Presented in Court

In criminal cases, evidence can come in many important forms, and there are legal checks and balances for each.


Testimony refers to witnesses answering questions about the facts of the case under oath (or otherwise providing testimony). All the objections discussed later in this article and a long list of others can apply to testimonial evidence.

Physical Evidence

Physical evidence is also called tangible evidence, and it refers to physical objects that the judge or jury members can see, touch, hold, and inspect. Common examples of physical evidence in criminal cases include:

  • Guns and ammunition that have been fired

  • Fingerprints

  • Hairs, traces of paint, fibers, and other forms of trace evidence

  • Tire tracks

  • Shoe impressions


Documentary evidence refers to written documents – such as police reports, contracts, diaries, and letters – but that is not the end of the story. All the following are considered documents:

Demonstrative Evidence

Demonstrative evidence is evidence that is used to bolster a witness’s testimony. For example, an accident recreation model can be used to back up the testimony of an expert witness. Other visual aids that are often employed include diagrams, charts, maps, and graphs.

Which Evidence Is Allowed in Court?

Just because evidence backs up the stance of either the prosecution or the defense does not mean it will be allowed in court. Several primary factors must apply before the judge allows evidence into the trial.


Material evidence refers to evidence that relates to those issues being decided in the case at hand.


When the evidence tends to make a consequential fact either more or less probable than it would be without it, the evidence is relevant to the case at hand.


Regardless of how relevant or material the evidence is, it must be authenticated, which means demonstrating that it is genuine and real – not forged or fake. Often evidence is authenticated via the testimony of a witness or witnesses with specific knowledge about its authenticity. Some official documents prove their own authenticity.

Not Privileged

In order for evidence to be presented in court, it cannot be privileged information. Certain kinds of information are privileged, which means that the person to whom it applies is not required to disclose it or to bring it up and cannot be asked about it during testimony that is guided by the opposing party.

In Texas, the kind of information that is classified as privileged includes all the following:

The Judge’s Discretion

Whether or not evidence that is not privileged can be presented in any given case is up to the judge’s discretion. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure guide judicial decisions on this matter, and the determination process is exceptionally complex.

Objections to Testimony

There are certain kinds of objections to testimony that both prosecution and defense attorneys turn to time and time again.

Objection, Relevance

The objection of relevance is a common refrain in modern courtrooms, and this objection typically pops up when either the defense attorney or the prosecution takes umbrage with the other side’s line of questioning – due to its irrelevance to the charge at hand.

A common example is bringing up a past crime that has nothing to do with the charge being tried in the present.

Judges take the matter of relevance very seriously because jurors can be distracted and influenced by irrelevant information that is inserted into a trial. An irrelevant line of questioning can prove unfairly prejudicial, which means it can leave jurors unfairly biased against the person being tried.

Objection, Calls for Speculation

If you hear “objection, calls for speculation,” it generally means that the witness who is answering questions on the stand has been asked to guess, make assumptions, or otherwise speculate about something.

When an attorney asks a witness to provide an answer to a question that he or she cannot possibly know, it amounts to a request for speculation, and the judge may instruct the attorney to either rephrase the question or adopt a different line of questioning.

An example of a question that calls for speculation is, “What do you believe he was thinking at the time?” Nobody other than the person referred to as “he” can answer this question, which makes it speculative.

Objection, Hearsay

Hearsay is the objection attorneys turn to when the information presented by the witness is not first-hand knowledge.

Statements that are made by a third party who is not in the court – regardless of how relevant they seem – cannot be used to establish the truth of the matter and are, therefore, inadmissible in court. The hearsay objection helps to ensure that those who testify in court do not forward information they did not themselves experience.

If the defendant told the person testifying something directly, it is evidence. If the defendant, however, told someone else the same information and this person shared it with the person testifying, it is hearsay and, therefore, not admissible in court.

The same rules apply to witnessing events. If you saw a man stab his wife, your testimony will likely be admissible. If your brother-in-law tells you that he saw the man stab his wife, your testimony will likely be considered hearsay.

While the hearsay objection is one of the most common in courthouses across Texas and the nation, there are also exceptions to the hearsay rule that must be taken into consideration. If an exception applies, the judge will allow the testimony to continue.

Hearsay Exceptions

There are wide-ranging hearsay exceptions, including all of the following classifications:

  • Present sense impression, which is a statement that describes or explains something and that is made while or immediately after the declarant’s perception of it

  • Excited utterance, which is a statement made concerning a startling event or condition (while reeling from the event or condition)

  • Then-existing mental, emotional, or physical condition, which is a statement that reflects the declarant’s state of mind at the time (such as reflecting motive, intent, or a plan) or the declarant’s overall emotional, sensory, or physical condition

  • Recorded recollections that preserved the witness’s memories

  • A record of a regularly conducted activity or the absence of a record of a regularly conducted activity

  • Public records, including public records of vital statistics (such as birth certificates or marriage licenses) or the absence of a public record

If the declarant is unable to testify in court, any of the forms of testimony listed above may be presented second-hand by another witness. In such instances, the objection of hearsay will generally not apply.

There are more hearsay objections than are listed here., which means that, while hearsay objections are often strong, they can also be struck down.


The purpose of the hearsay objection is to root out statements that are unreliable and that could, thus, sway the jury unfairly. The consequences of a criminal conviction are simply too serious to allow second-hand information that may or may not be valid into testimony.

Objection, Leading

Leading is the objection of choice when the attorney who is interviewing the witness asks questions in a manner that either suggests the attorney’s own answers or that attempts to put words in the mouth of the witness.

The attorney’s job is to ask questions and allow witnesses to answer them – without providing hints along the way. When a question is deemed to lead a witness in a specific direction, it can bias, taint, or otherwise influence the witness's testimony.

"You saw the crime take place, didn’t you?" is an obvious example of a leading question, but there are also more subtle ways to lead a witness.

If the judge agrees with the objection, the attorney is generally required to ask a different question.

Objection, Nonresponsive

When attorneys say “objection, nonresponsive,” they are objecting to the responses they receive from the witnesses being questioned. Nonresponsive means that the witness’s answer to the question posed by the attorney is not a direct or straightforward response.

When a witness goes off-topic, the nonresponsive objection applies. If the judge agrees with the attorney’s assessment of nonresponsive, he or she will likely instruct the witness to respond to the question at hand.

For example, if the attorney asks what the defendant did next and the witness comes back with information about anything other than what the defendant did next, a nonresponsive objection may apply.

Objection, Ambiguous

The objection of ambiguity applies when either the question asked by the attorney or the response provided by the witness is vague or unclear in nature.

When this objection is employed, it can allow the witness to better understand the question being asked of him or her or can help the attorney obtain a more precise answer to his or her question.

Objection, Argumentative

Argumentative is the objection used when the questions directed by the attorney to the witness blatantly insert the attorney’s own interpretation of the evidence – what he or she expects the jury to believe – into the question itself.

In other words, the question argues the attorney’s point and tends to challenge the credibility or truthfulness of the witness rather than seeking information from the witness.

Objection, Assumes Facts Not in Evidence

If an attorney says “objection, assumes facts not in evidence,” it means that the question asked references a fact that has not yet been presented, accepted as evidence, or otherwise established in the case at hand.

Objection, Lack of Foundation

The objection of lack of foundation means that no reason for asking the question of the witness has been established. For example, failing to demonstrate the witness’s qualifications for answering the question – such as familiarity with or personal knowledge of the topic – can qualify as a lack of foundation.

Seek the Professional Legal Guidance of an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing a criminal charge of any kind, having skilled legal counsel on your side is always in your best interest, and Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a savvy Killeen, Texas, criminal defense attorney with the experience and drive to help. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.