What is the Defense of an Alibi?
An alibi is a defense where the defendant claims that they could not have been the perpetrator of a crime, because they were somewhere else than the scene of the crime.
Any evidence demonstrating that the defendant was in fact somewhere else at the time that the crime occurred can be used to strengthen the alibi. The most common types of evidence include witness testimonies and records indicating that the defendant was at a certain place at a specific time.
For example, let’s say the prosecution is charging the defendant with a crime that occurred downtown at 8 p.m. If the defendant was having dinner at a restaurant with friends several miles away at that time, they could use that as an alibi defense. To strengthen their defense, the defendant could have their friends testify stating that the defendant was in fact with them at that time and place. However, when an alibi depends upon witness testimony, the credibility of those witnesses will determine if the jury believes the alibi. In situations where the only witnesses are friends or family members, the jury may not trust that the witnesses are telling the truth. A testimony by a witness who doesn’t know the defendant, such as a waiter at the aforementioned restaurant, would be much stronger and more likely to convince a jury of the alibi.
Any record that places the defendant away from the scene of the crime can also support an alibi. For example, if the defendant said they were at a restaurant and could produce a receipt where they used their own personal credit card to pay the bill, that provides strong support of their defense. If the defendant says they were at work and swiped their key card upon arrival and when they left, records of those swipes can be used as evidence to support their alibi. Videos and photos with time and date stamps are another common form of evidence used to confirm the validity of alibis.
In most states, the defense must provide notice of an alibi defense to the prosecution within a specific time frame. In New York, the prosecution must demand this information, which they typically do at the arraignment. The defense then has eight days to provide the prosecution with the alibi information, which includes any witnesses who will provide testimony supporting the alibi and other records that support the alibi. This is only the case if the defense is presenting evidence besides the defendant’s testimony to support the alibi. If the defendant will be the only one to testify that they were somewhere else, then the defense doesn’t need to provide alibi notice. It’s important to note that if the defense doesn’t provide any alibi information and the defendant testifies in court that they were with other people at the time of the crime, they won’t be able to use those people to provide witness testimony.
While an alibi may cause the prosecution to dismiss the charge, this is rare, and only occurs in the case of a very strong alibi. The prosecution may believe that the witnesses provided aren’t telling the truth, or that any records supporting the alibi have been altered, in which case they’ll continue with the case and argue that the alibi is false.
The defense doesn’t need to prove the alibi beyond a reasonable doubt to use it as a defense. An alibi is simply one defense to use, and whether it helps the defendant or not depends on whether the judge or jury believes it’s true. Even if the judge or jury doesn’t believe the defendant’s alibi, or the alibi is proven false during the trial, the prosecution still needs to prove that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are charged with a crime and you have an alibi, it’s vital that you get a criminal defense attorney and provide them with information on your alibi as soon as possible, including any evidence you have that supports it. Your attorney can use this alibi to build your defense, and make sure that any alibi requirements and deadlines are followed so you can use it in court.