In a court hearing, lawyers of both the prosecution and defense present evidence that is used to support the claims or arguments they make on behalf of their clients. However, it is possible that the evidence to be presented may not be presented at all because its presentation would be detrimental to the person or party who holds the evidence. This type of legal situation is referred to as adverse inference.
Adverse inference can be in the form of silence or refusal to cooperate because of the possible implication of the person presenting the evidence or testimony. This happens most often because a person may have somewhat contributed to the incident or may in some way ruin his or her own reputation or credibility.
When a legal situation of adverse inference in a court trial arises, it is possible that a judge issues an adverse inference instruction. This informs the jury that the evidence cannot be presented in court because it has been intentionally spoiled or it cannot be produced. The purpose of adverse inference is to hide evidence since it may prove to be hurtful to the case.
An example of adverse inference may be that a person stole information and erased it from his or her computer before it was confiscated. Once this is discovered in court, a judge issues an adverse inference instruction to the jury in order to inform them that the person erased the materials before the court examined it in order to conceal it.