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The Validity of Eyewitness Testimony

Brownstein Law Group, P.C. June 8, 2022

Facing a criminal trial can be extremely stressful. Many defendants enter these criminal proceedings without a complete understanding of the process, which can make them feel powerless and like they’re not in control of their future. This is why at the ​​Brownstein Law Group, P.C., you can work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will take the time to educate you about the entire process and attempt to make informed and realistic decisions. With this knowledge, Attorney Josh S. Brownstein can help you understand key components of the trial, like how eyewitness testimony can be used for and against you in court and how a skilled lawyer can leverage this evidence in your defense. He is located in San Rafael, California, but is able to serve those in Marin County, San Francisco, Novato, Petaluma, and throughout California.

Role of Eyewitness Testimony in a Trial

When an eyewitness takes the stand in a criminal trial, it’s usually a sensational moment and often dramatized in movies and TV shows. Eyewitness testimony is used extensively in criminal trials and can be very persuasive. It is usually presented by either the victim themselves or by a bystander that was present when the crime was committed.

Witnesses are often used to establish facts, identify key players in a crime scene, or add corroborating evidence to the prosecution or defense’s arguments. In addition to scientific evidence like fingerprints or DNA, eyewitness testimony can be used to support this forensic evidence if they claim they saw the defendant commit the crime or flee from the scene at the time of the crime.

However, even though it is used extensively in criminal proceedings, the validity of eyewitness testimony can be unreliable and has led to false accusations and convictions. Because of this, it’s essential to understand how it will be used and how your lawyer can question the witness's credibility on the stand.

Pros and Cons of Eyewitness Testimony

Even though it’s not always reliable, an eyewitness can still be incredibly useful to both sides of a criminal trial. A skilled attorney will know how to recognize when a witness can be helpful for your case or when it may be detrimental. 

Eyewitness testimony can be very useful in many cases. For example, juries tend to trust eyewitness testimony and jurors use this evidence when coming to a verdict. An eyewitness can also be helpful to put together the sequence of events of the incident and help construct a timeline that allows the judge and jury to understand what happened. Eyewitness testimony is also considered direct evidence in the courtroom if they can positively identify the defendant and saw them commit the crime, and this is especially effective if corroborated with other witness testimony.

On the other hand, eyewitness testimony can be unreliable when used as evidence in criminal trials. A person’s memory is imperfect, and the longer the amount of time between the incident and their testimony, the greater the chance they will misremember what happened. Memory can also be influenced by other factors such as the witness’ emotions, other testimony or facts they’ve heard, or through manipulative questions from lawyers. 

How Influential Is Eyewitness Testimony?

Despite its unreliable nature, eyewitness testimony can be very influential in court and play a massive role in a conviction or a successful acquittal. Eyewitness testimony can and should be called into question if your attorney believes it is unreliable, and an experienced lawyer will know which testimonies will be most effective in their defense. If they can show that the witness was under duress, stressed, fearful, biased, or influenced by either the prosecution or law enforcement, they can contest their testimony. It’s crucial that your attorney not only interrogates the validity of the witness’s statement but also convinces the judge or jury about why their testimony is unreliable. 

In other cases, your attorney can work to uphold the validity of an eyewitness statement to strengthen your defense. They may do this by bringing forth other witnesses who saw the same thing, providing physical evidence that supports their testimony, or connecting their courtroom testimony with written statements they provided directly after the incident. 

Don’t Risk Your Future. Call Now.

Most people charged with criminal offenses don’t ever see the inside of a courtroom. However, for the few that do, you simply can’t trust your defense to just anyone. You need an attorney who will fight aggressively to defend your rights, critically analyze all the available evidence, and work toward the best possible outcome. You and your future deserve a strong defense. If you’re in San Rafael, Marin County, San Francisco, Novato, or Petaluma, California, and would like to speak with an attorney with extensive experience in a criminal court, reach out to the ​​Brownstein Law Group, P.C. today for experienced legal guidance.