Circumstantial Evidence

Traditionally, if a conviction in Florida is based entirely upon circumstantial evidence, the sufficiency of the evidence was measured by the following special standard of review: “Where the only proof of guilt is circumstantial, no matter how strongly the evidence may suggest guilt, a conviction cannot be sustained unless the evidence is inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence.” Preston v. Sec’y, Fla. Dep’t of Corr., 785 F.3d 449, 460 (11th Cir. 2015)(quoting Thorp v. State, 777 So.2d 385, 389 (Fla. 2000).

Likewise, in State v. Law, 559 So.2d 187, 188 (Fla. 1989), the court held that in a circumstantial evidence case, the State must “introduce competent evidence which is inconsistent with the defendant’s theory of events.”

Although the special circumstantial evidence rule in prosecutions does not usually affect the probable cause to arrest threshold, if the law enforcement officer does not properly investigate the crime, the evidence gathered during the preliminary investigation might not exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence.

In 2020, Florida eliminated its distinct standard of review in circumstantial evidence cases and now follows the federal standard in all cases. Bush v. State, 295 So.3d 179 (Fla. 2020).

The federal rule for circumstantial evidence is explained in Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560 (1979). It requires viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and determining whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Attorney for Circumstantial Evidence in Florida

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm understand the rules for cases involving purely circumstantial evidence. While a conviction must be based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the circumstantial evidence test protects against a conviction based on impermissibly stacked inferences.

Direct evidence of guilt does not require additional steps if the trier of fact believes the evidence. However, circumstantial evidence of guilt requires the trier of fact to make inferences regarding the evidence presented.

Criminal prosecutions based solely on circumstantial evidence might not exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence.

Sammis Law Firm has offices in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, Clearwater in Pinellas County, and in New Port Richey in Pasco County. We fight criminal charges throughout the greater Tampa Bay area.

Contact us to discuss your case and the legal defenses that might apply.

Call 813-250-0500.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.