If your kid has been charged with a criminal offense, then you’re probably worried about the evidence that’s going to be presented against them and what a criminal conviction could mean for their future. These concerns are justified given that a conviction could impact everything from your child’s freedom and employment to their housing and reputation in the community.
With so much on the line, you need to help them develop the strongest criminal defense arguments possible under the circumstances. You might have a lot of options in that regard, but the impact of witness credibility is often underestimated.
Why witness credibility matters
Many criminal charges levied against college students are based on witness testimony. This results in a he-said, she-said situation, where conflicting accounts can make it hard for the judge or jury to discover the truth.
However, you might be able to help the trier of fact better determine whose story to believe by addressing witness credibility. After all, the judge or jury, depending on the type of trial that your child will face, will need to assess witness testimony and give it the amount of weight that it finds appropriate.
How can you address witness credibility?
Depending on the facts of your case, you might have a number of avenues available to you when it comes to attacking witness credibility. This includes each of the following:
- Pointing out prior inconsistent statements: If you can demonstrate that a witness has made inconsistent statements, then you’ll illustrate that the witness can’t be trusted. This can be done a couple of ways. The most effective is to depose key prosecutorial witnesses, which means taking their sworn testimony outside of court and before trial. By deposing witnesses, you lock them into their testimony so that you can then point out inconsistencies if their story changes at all when they testify at trail.
- Bias: Some of the witnesses being called against you may be biased against you. You might’ve had a falling out with someone who is now looking for vindication, or someone else implicated in the crime may turn on you as a way to secure lighter penalties for themselves. You need to point these issues out to the judge and jury.
- Criminal history: Not all criminal history can be used against a witness, but some can, such as criminal convictions related to a lack of truthfulness, like fraud, forgery, perjury, and embezzlement. These convictions are indicative that a witness can’t be trusted.
- Show poor memory: It might take a long time for your child’s case to get to trial. If that happens, then witness accounts can get fuzzy. Therefore, you might want to highlight for the judge and jury that the witness struggles to remember key details of their testimony. This can rock the witness’s credibility and knock a hole in the prosecution’s case.