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Book Chapter

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The word evidence ordinarily means the statements, events, items, or sensory perceptions that suggest the existence or nonexistence of, or truth or falsity of, another fact. Thus, one may say, “hoofbeats are evidence a horse may be passing.” Proof is similar in meaning but may connote more certainty.

Evidence can also mean the study of either (1) how people make such inferences (especially when conjoined with the word proof) or (2) how law regulates information admissibility in the judicial context. Evidence in the latter sense is the name of a standard law school course in common law countries and a subject that is on all American state examinations for admission to the bar. As a subject in law, then, evidence traditionally encompasses only the legal rules and regulations governing the admissibility of evidence, inference, and argument, on questions of fact, in civil and criminal judicial trials. Surprising for American lawyers, most civil law countries do not have a separate basic course on evidence but, rather, fold it into the introductory course on procedure.

Publication Citation

Published as Evidence and Proof, Doctrinal Issues In, Entry, in 1 Encyclopedia of Law and Society: American and Global Perspectives (David Scott Clark ed., London: Sage 2007), pp. 519-524.

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Evidence Commons