Evidence, in law, refers to any of the material items or assertions of fact that may be submitted to a competent tribunal as a means of ascertaining the truth of any alleged matter of fact under investigation before it.
To the end that court decisions are to be based on truth founded on evidence, a primary duty of courts is to conduct proper proceedings so as to hear and consider evidence. The so-called law of evidence is made up largely of procedural regulations concerning the proof and presentation of facts, whether involving the testimony of witnesses, the presentation of documents or physical objects, or the assertion of a foreign law. The many rules of evidence that have evolved under different legal systems have, in the main, been founded on experience and shaped by varying legal requirements of what constitutes admissible and sufficient proof.
Although evidence, in this sense, has both legal and technical characteristics, judicial evidence has always been a human rather than a technical problem. During different periods and at different cultural stages, problems concerning evidence have been resolved by widely different methods. Since the means of acquiring evidence are clearly variable and delimited, they can result only in a degree of probability and not in an absolute truth in the philosophical sense. In common-law countries, civil cases require only preponderant probability, and criminal cases require probability beyond reasonable doubt.
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