If you are ever charged with a crime by the State, there are some things you need to know.
For one, retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible because your future liberty and freedom will be at stake. For another, your credibility and the credibility of any witnesses will be vital in winning your criminal case.
At its simplest, credibility is the same thing as believability. It’s the power to elicit belief and frequently refers to someone’s reputation for truthfulness. In a court of law, your criminal attorney may seek to play up the evidence and witnesses’ credibility in your favor.
At the same time, your lawyer may also call into question the credibility or believability of any evidence or witness prosecutors might present against you.
The judge or jury deciding your case must determine the credibility of the testimony of every witness speaking for or against you. For example, suppose the jury in your case listens to the testimony of a prosecution witness and finds it to be less than credible.
If this happens, the case against you may become weaker as a result. Credible witnesses are those who are competent to give evidence and who are also worthy of belief. The stronger the credibility of the witnesses, the stronger the case; the weaker the credibility of the witnesses, the weaker the case.
An Arizona lawyer skilled in criminal defense will work hard to assess any witness’s credibility in your case. For instance, how plausible is the statement or testimony of a witness? If a witness’s statement sounds implausible to a jury, their testimony may have less credibility or be less believable.
Witness demeanor when testifying in court is also essential when it comes to assessing their credibility. A witness who is acting suspiciously or providing evasive answers when testifying is less credible in the eyes of the jury.
Can the witness’s testimony be corroborated or verified by other evidence, especially if it sounds less than plausible in the first place? Suppose a witness’s testimony cannot be confirmed? In that case, the witness may be less credible or believable to a judge or jury.
Defense attorneys also frequently look closely at the record of any witnesses called to testify for or against one of their clients. A prosecution expert witness with a history of error in past testimony in other criminal cases may be less believable or credible to a jury than one with a spotless record.
Finally, what is the motive for a witness’s testimony? Is a prosecution witness giving testimony against you as part of a deal to avoid being incarcerated as well? Does the witness have a history of animosity or dislike towards you? All these factors will have a hand in assessing just how credible they are in court.
The process of calling into question the credibility of a witness is known as “impeaching,” and good lawyers are skilled at it. Your attorney may have to spend a great deal of time and effort in developing evidence that contradicts or impeaches a prosecution witness’s testimony against you.
The evidence produced by your attorney should ideally call into question the accuracy or even truthfulness of the witness’s testimony. Upon cross-examining a witness testifying against you, your lawyer will usually try to present evidence that diminishes or even eliminates the credibility of that witness’s testimony.
Being charged with a crime, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony, is a serious matter. Above all else, and no matter how innocent you believe yourself to be, never make a verbal or written statement to police or anyone else without first having a top-flight criminal attorney present.
Robert A. Dodell, Attorney at Law, is a results-driven defense attorney and former prosecutor with over 30 years of experience. If you believe that law enforcement will charge you with a crime, or if you have already been arrested or charged with one, contact him immediately to discuss your case.