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The difference between exculpatory evidence and inculpatory evidence in a court proceeding

Often time when accused of a crime or traffic infraction people want to explain their side of the story to defend themselves. This is often not wise, as what people believe will exonerate them often ends up helping the prosecution’s case in convicting them. This is because 

what people believe to be exculpatory  evidence is usually inculpatory evidence. Before we go any further one must know and understand the difference between the two.

Inculpatory Evidence

Inculpatory evidence is evidence that shows, or tends to show, a person’s involvement in an act, or evidence that can establish guilt.

Exculpatory Evidence

Exculpatory evidence is evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt. It is the opposite of inculpatory evidence.

Examples of inculpatory and exculpatory evidence

Suppose you were accused of burglary and larceny. To prove burglary requires the prosecution showing that you entered or remained in a premises illegally and without license or consent to do so. To prove larceny requires the prosecution showing that you intentionally took property that was not yours to deprive the rightful owner of the property.

Alibi evidence showing that you could not have done any of that because you were 100 miles away from the scene on the date and time of the offense would be 100% exculpatory; i.e., evidence favorable to you that tends to exonerate you.

Suppose however you claimed that you did not burglarize the premises because you had a license or privilege to be there. This evidence could be exculpatory as well as inculpatory, and here is why. If you can prove your license or privilege to be on the premises, then it is exculpatory against the burglary charge. If however the court does not buy your license or privilege argument, then you have just proven the opposite – you have placed yourself at the scene with no license or privilege to be there. Consequently, you have just inculpated yourself in the burglary charge.

Suppose though that you not only claimed license or privilege to be there, but also that you only took the stuff because the complainant owed you money. If the court agrees with your claim that you had a right to be there then you have exculpated yourself from the burglary charge. However, no matter what you have just inculpated yourself in the larceny charge, because a debt being owed (1) is a legal conclusion, and (2) is a civil matter that does not allow the indebted party to take property without consent from the party that owes him or her the money. If however you claim and prove that the physical, chattel property you took was yours all along, then your statement will be inculpatory as it pertains to the larceny charge. If however you do not prove that the property is yours then again you have just inculpated yourself in the larceny charge.

Exculpatory evidence & traffic ticket matters

The rule of thumb when it comes to speeding tickets and other moving violations is that there is no such animal as exculpatory evidence, as a speeding or traffic matter is a strict liability violation. In other words, statements and evidence such as “I was only speeding because (I did not know the speed limit…I was going with the flow of traffic…I was passing another vehicle…I was being tailgated….I was lost and unfamiliar with the road….I had to find a restroom…etc., etc., etc…) are inherently inculpatory statements and will get you convicted.

There is a narrow exception to the strict liability doctrine which lies in the affirmative defense of necessity. However, it is only applicable in narrow situations and is a highly technical legal defense.

There are, however, many other ways to fight and defend a speeding ticket, traffic ticket, or other moving violation. They include:

  1. Putting the prosecution to their proofs
  2. Negotiating a plea bargain
  3. Motion practice
  4. Trial

If you have been given a speeding ticket, moving violation, or have been charged with an auto crime do not delay. Give is a call today. The phone consultation is free and we specialize in speeding and traffic ticket defense in New York. We will get your personal court appearance waived and in most cases give a money back guarantee to reduce your case. We’d love to talk to you and do so with people in your situation every day. So do not delay pick up the phone and call us now!