We often see witnesses to criminal activity portrayed as a linchpin in a criminal case. However, the fact is that witnesses are not perfect. As such, challenging witnesses and their credibility can be a crucial strategy if you are facing criminal charges.
Inconsistency in their recollection and conduct can damage witness credibility. For instance, if they have changed their version of what they know, saw or heard, that can be a major red flag. It can be impossible to distinguish which version of a person’s story is the most accurate.
Further, evidence that a witness’s own behavior or beliefs conflict with their statement can also be worth scrutiny.
Looking for lies
Lying in court, to the police or in legal documents is illegal and can be punishable by perjury charges. Thus, proving or suggesting that a witness lied in these situations could impeach their credibility.
Would the person lie to protect a loved one? Do they have a history of lying to authorities? Are they also accused of a crime and trying to improve their own case? Calling out these and other reasons to lie can be crucial in challenging the validity of the statements against you.
A witness’s character is also under the microscope if their testimony could harm your case. No one is perfect, of course, but certain aspects of a person’s character can make their statements less reliable.
Some examples of character or personal flaws that could weaken a person’s testimony include:
- A history of criminal behaviour
- Poor recollection and memory
- Influence by police or others
- Intoxication or impairment at the time of the alleged event
- Visual perception issues
- A desire for a specific outcome
Exposing these traits or beliefs can be crucial in challenging witness testimony. It is also critical to note that research shows that eyewitness testimony can be quite unreliable, and identifying mistakes by eyewitnesses can lead to exoneration and dismissal of charges.
Of course, every case is unique and requires careful examination when assessing appropriate defence options. But if you are facing charges and witnesses are involved, know that there are ways to respond and protect yourself.