An alibi is a form of defense used in legal proceedings and trials that shows that a defendant was not in a location where the alleged offense occurred. The alibi defense relies on the idea that the defendant is in fact actually innocent and has not committed the alleged crime. When an alibi defense is used by a defendant, the appropriate strategy for the defense is to work to prove innocence as opposed to simply being not guilty.
If the defendant does not have an alibi, the attorney for the defendant can say that the prosecution is unable to prove the case beyond a point of reasonable doubt. However, having an alibi defense changes the focus and the defendant case must be able to convince the jury of his or her innocence. If the jury does not think the alibi is true, it becomes more difficult for the defense to suggest that the prosecution is unable to prove the case.
Most legal jurisdictions have certain notice rules that are used for an alibi defense. The defense attorney usually must give notice to the prosecution about using an alibi defense. The defense also must disclose the location of the alibi where the defendant was during the crime as well as names, telephone numbers, and addresses of the alibi witnesses.
In return, the prosecution then discloses the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of the witnesses to the alleged crime along with witnesses that the prosecution plans to use to dispute the alibi defense.
If the alibi defense of the defendant is good enough to raise any reasonable doubt concerning his or her guilt in the alleged crime, the burden is then on the prosecution who must then disprove the alibi defense to a point beyond a reasonable doubt.
When the defense presents an alibi defense, the entire case switches focus and looks at how poorly or how well the witnesses of the alibi handles the cross-examination. Sometimes, an alibi witness can be vulnerable to attack in the following areas during a cross-examination:
Personal attacks on the alibi witness:
• The relationship the alibi witness has with the defendant.
• Any bias or unusual interest the witness appears to may have in the case’s outcome.
• Any refusal by the witness to speak with the prosecution before the trial.
• Failure by the witness to report the alibi to any law enforcement before trial.
The witness’s pretrial preparation:
• How the witness learns about the importance of the date in question
• The witness’s timing of the request to testify
• Any prior meetings with the defense team or other alibi witnesses involved
The witness’s trial testimony:
• Failure to give a reason for knowing or remembering the alibi date
• The overall chance that the alibi is legitimate or probable
• Inability to recall other dates
• Inconsistencies between the statements with other alibi witness statements.
• Inability to remember certain details about the alibi
• Unusually perfect ability to remember the details
• Lack of proof to support the alibi
• Proof that is not consistent with the alibi given