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What defenses does a suspect have against eyewitness testimony?

On Behalf of | Dec 26, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Eyewitness testimony makes compelling television drama. Police procedural shows certainly have led people to believe that eyewitness accounts are a flawless way to find the right person. But if you are a suspect, eyewitnesses can be an unreliable way to falsely accuse you of a crime. Fortunately, the law in New Jersey allows several methods to challenge eyewitness testimony.

Demonstrate that the witness was biased

Does the eyewitness know you? A criminal defense strategy may involve challenging biases against you. Do they have pre-existing animosity? Do you have a history of not getting along with the eyewitness? A quality defense team will look for and point out any ulterior motive that the eyewitness might possess.

Challenge the lineup procedures

Another defense technique involves challenging the police lineup procedure. Police lineups use eyewitnesses to identify a potential suspect. But these procedures are not without problems. The most common faults associated with police lineups are:

  • Police may contaminate the witness with their opinions.
  • The witness may feel pressure to choose someone from the lineup.
  • The person chosen from the lineup may look nothing like the actual description provided to the police.

Since police lineups are often flawed, their reliability may be challenged by a defense team.

Challenge the eyewitness’ memory

Eyewitnesses are human, and their memories are flawed. Court trials typically occur long after the crime allegedly took place. The witness may simply not remember events with the clarity that the prosecutor believes they do. Witnesses also sometimes have trauma associated with the alleged crime, and that can affect their memory of the event.

Remember that your goal is to protect yourself

Criminal convictions may result in prison time and may affect you long after you are released. Your criminal defense strategy needs to take advantage of all of the possible angles to discredit the eyewitness to the alleged crime.