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Can music lyrics be submitted as evidence in a criminal case?

On Behalf of | Jan 13, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Over the years, the boundaries of what can be considered evidence in a judicial proceeding has been constantly tested within Florida courts. Attorneys often present things such as social media posts and even passive-aggressive behavior to the court as evidence of intent — or lack thereof.

More recently, attorneys have looked at using music lyrics as potential evidence. Musicians such as rappers have been placing inciteful language into their music for years, but courts have never used those words to prove anyone guilty of a crime. So, are things changing? Can music be used and submitted as evidence in a criminal case? Read on to learn more about this very new legal issue.

Character evidence

Under the rules of criminal procedure, one party cannot introduce evidence of a person’s past mistakes as a way to prove to the jury or judge how “bad” a person is. That is usually called character evidence. However, some attorneys have figured out that they can use this information in court as long as it’s not used or intended to demonstrate bad character. Similarly, introducing violent lyrics may provide a way to demonstrate intent rather than to tarnish a person’s character.

Right to free speech

One of the primary arguments against using music lyrics in court is that it violates the musician’s First Amendment rights. This argument most often applies to lyrics containing political messages or criticism; thus, many are still confused about how it violates a person’s First Amendment if the lyrics are non-political. Even then, an attorney may state that all music has some political undertone, and the First Amendment should protect even the smallest political message.

It’s safe to say that forming a strong defense in a serious criminal case is complex. That’s why it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can argue for — or against — using unique types of evidence to help secure an acquittal. In an ever-changing world, it’s best to stay ahead of the curve when facing serious criminal charges.