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Conflicting Testimonies and Alcohol: What to Know

Posted on April 20, 2023 in Criminal Defense

If you are on trial for a crime or offense, it is critical to understand how the justice system works. The prosecution will submit evidence against you in an attempt to prove your guilt, often in the form of witness testimony. If the eyewitness used was under the influence of alcohol at the time, however, this could lead to conflicting testimonies and an argument of insufficient evidence.

What Is Eyewitness Testimony?

Eyewitness testimony refers to a person who directly witnessed an event giving an account of what he or she observed. An eyewitness could be a victim or bystander to an alleged crime or incident that is under investigation. Eyewitness testimony is not hearsay, since the person giving the account was present and is therefore a direct source. However, the strength of the eyewitness’s testimony will depend on his or her credibility.

How Is the Credibility of an Eyewitness Determined?

The testimony of an eyewitness will only serve as compelling evidence if the jury views the witness as a credible and reliable source of information. Undermining eyewitness testimony is a strategy that a Gilbert criminal defense attorney may use to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case. The defense may argue that the witness is unreliable for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The witness was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of witnessing the event. 
  • There is evidence to suggest that the witness has an inaccurate memory.
    The witness has a general reputation for not being truthful or honest. 
  • The witness has given conflicting or inconsistent statements at other times.
  • The witness’s testimony conflicts with other witness statements or evidence in the case.
  • The witness has been offered money or other incentives to testify a certain way.
  • The witness is under pressure, duress, coercion or threat.
  • The witness has been convicted of a crime involving perjury, false statement or dishonesty.

If the only witness testifying during a criminal case was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident in question, this can undermine his or her credibility enough to dismiss the case or lead to a not-guilty verdict. The jury may not believe the word of the witness beyond a reasonable doubt based on his or her intoxication and unreliable state of mind at the time of the incident. This can lead to the case being dismissed due to lack of evidence or an acquittal.

What Is Hearsay?

Hearsay is a statement that was made out of court by someone other than the witness testifying that is offered as evidence to prove the truth of a matter. Hearsay is generally not permitted to be used as evidence, as it is viewed as unreliable under the Hearsay Rule. However, there are some exceptions, including present-sense impressions, declarations of present state of mind and dying declarations.

According to the Hearsay Rule, most hearsay is prohibited from being admitted as evidence due to the inability of the other party to cross-examine the person who originally made the statement. The courts will analyze if a sentence is hearsay by determining if it is 1) an asserted statement, 2) made by someone outside of court that is 3) offered to prove the information is true.

The theory behind prohibiting hearsay is that many statements people make are unreliable. They are subject to mistakes based on the person’s memory, interpretation and perception. The person testifying may also make a mistake when recounting what he or she heard. Therefore, hearsay information is too unreliable to be admitted as evidence in court.

Can You Get Convicted Based on Statements From One Eyewitness?

Yes, it is possible to be convicted of a crime based on testimony from only one witness. However, the witness’s statements must be accepted as true beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury. Due process in the criminal justice system requires the prosecution to establish the defendant’s guilt regarding the crime(s) as true beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high degree of certainty that may not be met with testimony from just one eyewitness – especially if the witness is deemed unreliable. For more information, you can contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at AZ Defenders.