202.Direct and Indirect Evidence
Evidence can come in many forms. It can be testimony about what
someone saw or heard or smelled. It can be an exhibit admitted into
evidence. It can be someone’s opinion.
Direct evidence can prove a fact by itself. For example, if a witness
testiﬁes she saw a jet plane ﬂying across the sky, that testimony is direct
evidence that a plane ﬂew across the sky. Some evidence proves a fact
indirectly. For example, a witness testiﬁes that he saw only the white
trail that jet planes often leave. This indirect evidence is sometimes
referred to as “circumstantial evidence.” In either instance, the witness’s
testimony is evidence that a jet plane ﬂew across the sky.
As far as the law is concerned, it makes no difference whether evidence
is direct or indirect. You may choose to believe or disbelieve either kind.
Whether it is direct or indirect, you should give every piece of evidence
whatever weight you think it deserves.
New September 2003; Revised December 2012
Directions for Use
An instruction concerning the effect of circumstantial evidence must be given on
request when it is called for by the evidence. (Shepherd v. Walley (1972) 28
Cal.App.3d 1079, 1084 [105 Cal.Rptr. 387]; Calandri v. Ione Uniﬁed School Dist.
(1963) 219 Cal.App.2d 542, 551 [33 Cal.Rptr. 333]; Trapani v. Holzer (1958) 158
Cal.App.2d 1, 6 [321 P.2d 803].)
Sources and Authority
• Direct Evidence. Evidence Code section 410.
• Inference. Evidence Code section 600(b).
• The Assembly Committee on Judiciary Comment to section 600 observes:
“Under the Evidence Code, an inference is not itself evidence; it is the result of
reasoning from evidence.”
• “[T]he fact that evidence is ‘circumstantial’ does not mean that it cannot be
‘substantial.’ Relevant circumstantial evidence is admissible in California.
Moreover, the jury is entitled to accept persuasive circumstantial evidence even
where contradicted by direct testimony.” (Hasson v. Ford Motor Co. (1977) 19
Cal.3d 530, 548 [138 Cal.Rptr. 705, 564 P.2d 857], overruled on other grounds
in Soule v. GM Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 607, 882 P.2d 298].)
• “The terms ‘indirect evidence’ and ‘circumstantial evidence’ are interchangeable
and synonymous.” (People v. Yokum (1956) 145 Cal.App.2d 245, 250 [302 P.2d
406], disapproved on other grounds,People v. Cook (1983) 33 Cal.3d 400, 413