Alibi as a Criminal Defense Strategy

by Philadelphia Defense Attorney on May 14, 2012

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Everyone is familiar with the concept of an alibi whether it is from television, the news, or movies. An alibi can make the difference between a person being immediately free from charges and an innocent person having to spend lots of time, energy, and money trying to clear his or her name. This type of defense can be used when the accused individual has a person or evidence verifying that he or she could not have been present at a particular place at a particular time. Simply put, you were somewhere else so you could not have committed the crime.

It is important to note that you cannot simply have a person vouch for you and expect to be set free with no questions asked. If there are any weaknesses with the alibi, the prosecution may continue forward with a case. When someone provides an alibi, it can be expected that the authorities will take the time to investigate its validity. Once all parts of the alibi have been investigated, the authorities will make a decision as to whether or not the information is reliable. If it a decision is made favoring the accused, the case will be dropped. Keep in mind that this process is somewhat subjective and as such, the people providing your alibi can be disregarded leading to a trial.

Alibi Proof and Testimonials in U.S. Court

If the authorities do not believe an alibi you have presented, the testimony can still be useful in setting up a successful defense in court. For the record, defense attorneys can make their own assessment of the alibi witness. This means that a motion to dismiss can still be entered before court so that a trial does not need to take place. Criminal defense lawyers are experts at finding and using alibi testimonies in court.

This is especially useful if a possible alibi witness is not discovered until after a trial begins. Attorneys have the resources necessary to track down unknown individuals who may have information crucial to establishing your innocence. It is always better to attempt to get the charges dropped as soon as possible because it will save everyone involved a lot of money and time, not to mention all the stress that will be avoided.

So let us say you have an alibi, but you still have to go to trial. The alibi witness can still be called to testify in court on your behalf. An expert defense attorney will thoroughly interview the witness so that any possible problems can be anticipated early and handled. Prosecutors have no problems digging into a person’s past in order to discredit any testimony, especially since the defense is required to disclose the contact information of each alibi witness.

This can be a major problem for anyone with a questionable past or if the witness is personally vested in the outcome of the case. As long as the defense counsel takes the time to ensure that the alibi is bulletproof, the judge or jury will issue a verdict of not guilty. Rely on an experienced defense lawyer to do everything possible to find an alibi. The witness will be interviewed and the information analyzed in order to determine the best way for the alibi to be presented to a judge or in court. Getting reliable legal counsel will help your trial have the desired outcome.

Common Defenses

When a person is accused of a crime and stands trial, the prosecution must find a way to prove to the jury or judge that the person is indeed guilty. This means that the defendant and the defense must do everything within their power to ensure that the prosecution is not successful. If a case against your innocence can not be efficiently presented, you will be found not guilty. There are a number of different ways to create a solid defense against charges. Some of the defenses try to prove that a person is completely innocent while other defenses revolve on providing a justification for committing the crime.

Innocent Defendants

These defenses are common among people who claim to be innocent. Regardless of whether or not the person in question committed the crime, these defenses are based on the fact that the defendant is claiming that he or she is not responsible for the crime.

  • Alibi: An alibi is used to show that a defendant could not be responsible for the crime because he or she was doing something else. As long as the alibi witness or evidence is believable, many people will be free to go with the assumption that you cannot be in two places at once.
  • Reasonable Doubt: In order to find someone guilty in the United States, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the particular person committed the crime. This means that the judge or the jury must not have any inkling of doubt when convicting someone. If there is any possible way that someone else could be the perpetrator, a not guilty verdict should be handed down. Along the same lines, a person is assumed innocent until proved guilty. If the defense feels that the prosecution does not have a strong case, they may not present any evidence or call any witnesses. This leaves everything on the shoulders of the prosecution and if they have a weak case, it will fail.

Guilty Defendants

There are many cases where everyone knows the defendant is guilty and the defendant admits to committing the act. Some common defenses for getting reduced sentences or dropped charges include:

  • Insanity: This is a very complex defense and requires expert opinions from professionals such as a psychologist. It must be proved that at the time of the crime, a person was not in his or her right mind or that there is a psychological condition preventing someone from fully understanding the circumstances surrounding the committed crime. If the insanity defense is successful, people are rarely set free to the public and must undergo psychiatric care until sanity can be established.
  • Self Defense: Commonly used in violent crimes or murders, a successful self defense claim can get charges dropped or severely reduced. The principle of the defense is that people have the right to protect themselves from imminent danger. The key to self defense is that the actions of the defendant must have been within reason.
  • Entrapment: This occurs when the authorities essentially set someone up to fail. The crime is encouraged and then when it occurs, the perpetrator is punished. Entrapment can be a tricky defense to pull off especially if the defendant has a history of committing similar crimes.

Peter J. Scuderi is among the top criminal lawyers in Philadelphia with over three decades of experience in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He also publishes his own Philadelphia lawyer blog.

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