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Alibi Defense

The term alibi is a Latin term that translates to somewhere else. In criminal law, an alibi defense means that the defendant has some type of evidence than demonstrates his or her inability to commit a crime because he or she was somewhere else when the crime was committed (CalCrim No. 3408)

Types of Alibi Evidence: Alibi evidence usually includes a person, other than the defendant, who claims (testifies) that the defendant was with him or her at the time of the alleged offense, and therefore, the defendant could not have committed the alleged offense. Alibi evidence can also include non-witness testimony, such as photographs, credit card receipts, videos, signatures on contracts, cell phone data location, employment time cards, etc., all of which may be used to prove that the defendant was not near the location of the alleged offense when the offense was committed.

Note: An alibi defense is not an affirmative defense. This means that the defendant does not have to prove that he or she has an alibi in a criminal case. Also, a prosecutor does not have to prove that the defendant does not have an alibi in a criminal case. Rather, there is a burden on the prosecutor to prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, if the defendant can show that he or she has an alibi that makes it impossible for the defendant to have committed the alleged offense then the defendant may be able to provide reasonable doubt as to his or her guilt.

For example, in the case of criminal trespass charges, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant entered upon land without permission. There is no requirement that the prosecutor prove that the defendant was personally present when he trespassed, but the fact of defendant’s presence in a trespass case is incidentally and simultaneously proved when the prosecutor proves that the defendant entered upon land without permission. In addition, there is no requirement that the defendant prove an alibi in a trespass case; however, when the defendant shows evidence of an alibi, he or she may allow reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s criminal conduct to enter into the mind of a juror.

Defense Application: The defense of an alibi only applies to cases where the defendant must have been personally present when the crime was committed. In essence, if the district attorney is trying to prove that the defendant aided a crime that took place in a location different than the place where the defendant gave aid then the defense of alibi does not apply.

 

For example, if wife gave a stolen credit card to her husband to use at a bank then it does not matter that the wife has an alibi as to her location (away from the bank) when her husband used the stolen credit card to defraud the bank.

Note: The presentation of alibi evidence does not by itself win a case. The alibi evidence is evaluated on a case by case basis and the amount of importance that is placed on the alibi evidence is determined by the jury. For example, if the defendant's mom testifies that her son (the defendant) was asleep in his room all weekend and therefore could not have committed a crime on a particular weekend it would not be considered very strong alibi evidence as the defendant's mom is usually considered to be a very biased witness; however, evidence that the defendant was in a coma in a hospital on the same weekend, as testified to by several doctors with medical records, is very strong evidence that the defendant could not have committed a crime on a particular weekend.

Weak v. Strong Alibis: The evidence of alibi is always allowed in criminal court but whether or not the evidence of alibi is sufficient to overcome the balance of the evidence in a criminal case is what's important. Alibi witnesses that are close family members or friends of the defendant are generally considered weak alibis for the most part. Stronger alibis exist in such things as video evidence, photographs, and unbiased witnesses.

Common Crimes: An alibi defense can be used as a defense in any type of crime; however, the defense is rarely used in cases where the defendant is caught red-handed, such as in cases of DUI, shoplifting, receipt of stolen property, grand theft auto, etc.; in cases where there is at least one other hostile witness (or video) present when the crime is alleged to have occurred, such as in cases of battery, assault, robbery, kidnapping, etc., and in cases where forensic science can determine the presence of a person without a witness, such as in cases of rape of an intoxicated person (seminal fluid), etc.

In sum, the defendant does not need to prove his or her alibi, but if evidence is presented that the defendant could not have committed the alleged crime because he or she was somewhere else at the time the crime was committed than that alibi evidence, if believed by the jury, might be sufficient to raise reasonable doubt in a criminal case.

Inconsistent defenses: In criminal cases, it is permissible to have two or more defenses that are inconsistent with one another. For example, it is not improper for the defendant to argue the following in a prosecution for the crime of murder: "I have an alibi who will testify that I wasn't present when the victim was killed; however, even if I was present at the time the victim was killed I acted in self-defense." These inconsistent defenses are fine for negotiating settlements with the district attorney or the judge, but inconsistent defenses at jury trial should probably be avoided as the inconsistencies can be viewed as the defendant's attempt to mislead the jury.

To learn more about defenses to crimes, including the defense of alibi, contact our criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation. Our legal consultations are private and discreet and our attorneys are available every day of the week to answer your questions and explain your rights and defense options. Call today!

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