During trial, pictures can often assist in presenting a case. They can visually demonstrate what has otherwise only been testified about. For example, in family law, pictures can help demonstrate a bond between children and a parent. Father can testify that he participates in his daughter’s activities, and introduce a picture of him coaching her on weekends. This creates an additional layer of evidence to help bolster a case.
Pictures can also help weaken the case of another. For example, if one parent has a suspended license and there is a picture introduced showing that person behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, this can create problems.
Pictures cannot just be introduced at will, however. Under the Indiana Rules of Evidence, there is a process, seeking to establish authenticity of the picture that the party introducing the evidence must adhere to as they seek to introduce his or her evidence1.
In order to authenticate a photograph and make same admissible evidence, several questions often need to be addressed. For example, who took the picture, when was it taken, where was it taken, does the picture fairly depict the scene? By asking these questions and identifying the “who, what, when, where, why” of the photograph, the foundation can be laid to admit the picture into evidence.
With the advent and prevalence of social media, pictures on these websites have created further layers of difficulty in evidence admissibility. Often, pictures on social media sites may be posted by the person who took the picture. However, they can be difficult to authenticate because that person may not be available or may not be helpful to the party seeking to introduce the photograph. Additionally, social media photo authenticity can be hindered by the ability to edit and otherwise alter information on the internet.
Knowing the steps to authenticate and seek to introduce a photograph can be helpful in building a stronger case than testimony alone. While photographs are not always admissible, it can be helpful to seek the advice of an attorney to determine if pictures may help or hurt your case.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding some basic background of using pictures as evidence in a trial or hearing. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.
- See generally, Indiana Rules of Evidence 901 and 1001.