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What Is an Alibi Defense?

Posted on February 15, 2021 in Criminal Defense

An alibi defense is a tactic a defendant may use during a criminal case. In basic terms, an alibi defense asserts that the defendant was not present at the scene of the crime when the crime was committed. Using the alibi defense typically requires evidence, such as receipts, video footage or signed statements from witnesses. It may or may not be the best defense available for a defendant, depending on the details of the individual case.

What Is the Burden of Proof in a Criminal Case?

The evidentiary standard in a criminal case is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution in a criminal case has the burden to prove to a jury using evidence and witnesses that the suspect committed the crime in question beyond a reasonable doubt.

If a criminal defendant chooses to plead not guilty, the defendant’s attorney will try to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case with the goal of demonstrating that he or she has not met the burden of proof. One possible defense strategy to achieve this goal is the alibi defense.

Understanding the Alibi Defense

The word alibi has Latin roots. Literally translated, it means “elsewhere.” When used in criminal law, an alibi means the defendant is alleging that he or she was not physically at the scene of the crime – the defendant has evidence that he or she was elsewhere when the crime was committed. The alibi defense implies that since the defendant was present elsewhere, he or she could not be the person who committed the crime.

When a defendant uses the alibi defense, the goal is to create a reasonable doubt that he or she is guilty of the crime being charged. If the alibi defense can make just one juror doubt whether the defendant could have committed the crime, it can lead to a hung jury or an acquittal. A successful alibi defense has the power to change the outcome of a criminal case. It can also, however, have potential drawbacks.

Pros and Cons of the Alibi Defense

Although an alibi may seem like a failsafe defense, it can have both pros and cons when used during a criminal case. If the defendant believes he or she has an alibi, the defendant should consider how this type of defense could help or hurt the case. A criminal defense lawyer can help with this assessment.


  • An alibi can present a strong defense in the right circumstances, such as with a stranger’s testimony or testimony from multiple people.
  • The defendant can use this defense without giving up the right to remain silent through the use of witnesses or evidence.
  • The defendant does not have to prove his or her alibi beyond a reasonable doubt. However, supporting the alibi with photographs and records can strengthen the defense.


  • The alibi defense is complicated and difficult to prove. In trying to establish an alibi (especially without a lawyer’s assistance), a defendant could end up incriminating him or herself.
  • Since an alibi depends on witnesses to support it, the reliability of those witnesses can make a big difference to the credibility of this defense.
  • It can be difficult to succeed with an alibi defense if the only witnesses are people with motivation to lie for the defendant, such as friends and family members.

An alibi is not a suitable defense for every criminal defendant. A defense attorney can weigh the potential strengths and weaknesses of an alibi defense for a particular defendant and case.

Is the Alibi Defense Right for Your Case?

Whether or not to use the alibi defense is a tricky question that can have serious ramifications on your life as someone facing criminal charges in Arizona. It is important to discuss the possible advantages and disadvantages of using the alibi defense with an attorney before proceeding. A defense lawyer in Phoenix can thoroughly evaluate your case and give you trustworthy legal advice about the best defense strategy to use. If the right choice is the alibi defense, your lawyer can help you prepare and perfect your defense before your court date.