Television dramas and motion pictures are populated with scenes involving dramatic eyewitness testimony presented from the stand a courtroom. Time and again in fictional crime dramas, an eyewitness makes the case. The stark reality is that in criminal defense and prosecution, eyewitness testimony is in fact controversial and oftentimes unreliable. This is demonstrated with frequency across the United States, including in Florida.
Research on eyewitness testimony
In recent years, there has been ongoing research into the reliability of eyewitness testimony. A considerable amount of this research has concluded that eyewitness testimony is not always reliable or accurate.
There is a number of reasons why eyewitness testimony proves to be unreliable:
- Eyewitness testimony is largely based on memory, which fades and even can become distorted over time
- Witnessing what fairly might be classified as a traumatic event, like a violent crime, can impact the manner in which a person mentally processes the incident and distort that individual’s memory of it
- Being questioned about an incident can also work to influence the manner in which an eyewitness recalls an incident
Eyewitness testimony and criminal defense
One strategy employed in criminal defense centers on the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Typically, when it comes to criminal defense, attacking the reliability of an eyewitness might occur on two fronts.
First, the memory and veracity of an eyewitness may be subject to scrutiny as part of a criminal defense strategy. Second, an expert might be called to testify during a trial as to the reliability of eyewitness testimony more generally.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, retaining a capable, experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial. Ideally, a person facing criminal charges engages legal representation sooner rather than later.