Bringing forth the best evidence during your trial is key to winning your case — and possibly your freedom. That evidence can take many forms, but two of the most important are exculpatory and inculpatory evidence. What are these? And how can they help or harm you? Here's what you need to know.

What Is Exculpatory Evidence?

Exculpatory evidence is evidence that demonstrates you did not commit the crime for which you're charged. If you're charged with a hit-and-run, for instance, exculpatory evidence could be an eyewitness who testifies that they saw you in a different city at the time of the accident. 

Essentially, the evidence of the eyewitness excludes you from being the perpetrator. However, how strong this exclusion is depends on the perceived trustworthiness of the witness. 

What Is Inculpatory Evidence? 

The opposite of exculpatory evidence is a less-commonly heard phrase: inculpatory evidence. This is evidence that shows you did commit the crime. In the case of the above hit-and-run, perhaps the best inculpatory evidence would be traffic camera footage showing you leaving the scene or eyewitness testimony of the same. 

Can Evidence Be Both?

As with other types of evidence, both exculpatory and inculpatory evidence can be complex. They can each be somewhat exculpatory and somewhat inculpatory, in fact. 

For instance, the traffic camera may show that you did indeed cause the accident but that you did not flee the scene. So it's exculpatory for hit-and-run charges but may also be inculpatory by proving you were involved in the accident. Similarly, a DNA test that shows your DNA and another person's DNA on a weapon may serve as both proving you held the weapon and that someone else did as well.

The good news is that specific rules regarding exculpatory evidence can help you. In general, prosecutors must provide exculpatory evidence to the defense if they discover it. This is to ensure that everyone charged with a crime receives a fair trial. The road is much harder for prosecutors to get inculpatory evidence from you. 

Where Can You Learn More?

Do you think that you may have exculpatory evidence in your case? Could your evidence also be inculpatory? Do you have reason to believe that the prosecution has not presented exculpatory evidence they have? Do you want to know more about how to find the best evidence?

Start by meeting with a criminal defense lawyer in your jurisdiction today. With their guidance, you'll build the best defense possible no matter what type of evidence is involved.