It’s stressful to face criminal charges. After all, the threat of conviction leaves you with the real possibility of being hit with serious penalties that can include prison time, fines, and a criminal record that can touch nearly every aspect of your life, from employment to housing.
That’s why you should do everything in your power to fully assess the prosecution’s case to find ways to attack it. This may mean trying to suppress evidence, providing an alibi, or simply arguing that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden. But another tactic that could be key to your criminal defense is addressing witness credibility.
The importance of witness credibility
There’s no doubt that the prosecution is going to have a number of witnesses lined up to testify against you. The judge or jury, depending on the type of trial you have, is going to be tasked with hearing testimony from those witnesses and giving the appropriate amount of weight to that testimony.
The more reliable and trustworthy the testimony, the more weight it’s going to carry. Therefore, if you can successfully attack the reliability of the prosecution’s witnesses, then you might be able to raise enough doubt as to your guilt to obtain an acquittal.
But how do you attack the credibility and reliability of a witness? Here are a few ways:
- Prior inconsistent statements: In most criminal cases, you’ll want to depose the prosecution’s witnesses so that you can figure out what they know and how they plan to testify at trial. This depositional testimony is sworn, though, which means that the witness should tell the truth during the deposition and at trial. This isn’t always the case. However, if you’ve conducted a properly thorough deposition, then you can use that depositional testimony to point out a witness’s inconsistent statements if he or she strays from that depositional testimony at trial.
- Bias and motivation: Witnesses oftentimes carry some sort of bias or motivation to testify in a certain way. A witness could be given a plea bargain in exchange for testimony against you, or the witness may have a personal problem with you or the way that you treated their loved one. Either way, you need to point these issues out to the judge and jury so that they can see that the witness’s testimony may be skewed.
- Prior criminal conviction: Some witnesses have questionable pasts. While you probably won’t be able to drag up every issue that could draw the witness’s credibility into question, a prior criminal conviction, especially for something related to truthfulness, is certainly relevant. Therefore, research the history of the prosecution’s witnesses to see if there’s anything in this regard that you can exploit to your advantage.
Building the best criminal defense you can
There are a lot of ways to attack the credibility and reliability of a witness. But keep in mind that this should just be a piece of your criminal defense strategy. To maximize your chances of success, you need to take a holistic approach to your case, meaning that you address every potential weakness in the prosecution’s case.
To successfully do so, you have to know the law and how to use it to your advantage. If you’re able to do so, then you might be able to position yourself for successful negotiations with the prosecution or, if your case goes to trial, then you might be able to beat the charges and protect your future.