What is an Alibi and When Does It Work?

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

prostitution legalYou may have heard the term on TV or in movies, but many criminal defendants misunderstand the concept of an alibi.

The term “alibi,” means that the defendant has a party or evidence that proves he or she was somewhere else at the time of the alleged crime. Obviously, people cannot be two places at the same time, so the alibi typically proves that the defendant is not guilty of the crime charged. For example, John Doe is charged with committing murder. However, he has an alibi in the form of a witness that states he was 10 miles away from the scene of the crime at the time the alleged murder occurred. That witness has a photograph of John Doe that is timestamped; therefore, his alibi proves that he was not at the scene and could not have committed the murder.

Alibis are Simple Defenses

An alibi defense is much more powerful than a self-defense or any affirmative defense strategy. This is because an alibi can be powerful. A successful alibi is one that is strong enough to entirely rule out the defendant as the perpetrator.

Sadly, alibis are difficult to prove. One person’s testimony is often not enough. If your alibi cannot be proven with a relatively high degree of certainty, then it may not convince the judge or jury of your innocence.

Often the law looks at an alibi as easily made up. Friends or family of the defendant can easily get up on the stand and testify that they were with the defendant at the time in question. If there is no corroborating, tangible evidence to support these assertions, some judges may disallow the alibi from being presented. Furthermore, if an alibi is asserted, the prosecution will surely investigate to uncover proof that the alibi is fabricated.

The Defense Has a Duty to Disclose

New Mexico is no different from the federal code and other states. It is required that the defense notifies the prosecution of any planned alibi defenses before trial. This gives the prosecution access to the evidence and witnesses associated with the alibi – and gives them time to investigate.

And disclosure goes both ways. After the defense has notified the prosecution of an alibi, if the prosecution finds witnesses or evidence to disprove the alibi, they must notify the defense.

Sadly, any failure to abide by these rules could result in a defendant’s alibi being disallowed.

The Strengths and Weaknesses of an Alibi Defense

Even what seems like a strong alibi defense can become weak in court, especially when an alibi depends on witness testimony. After all, the judge or jury would need to believe the testimony of the witness. When the alibi witness is a friend or family member of the defendant, judges and juries will almost surely wonder if that person is lying for the defendant.

The prosecution will do their part to strike doubts about the reliability of the alibi witness in the minds of the jury or the judge. Family members will typically be seen as having the biggest motive to lie for their loved one, followed by friends.  Non-friends or family members typically have the most credibility.

When Do You Need an Alibi?

Anytime you are accused of a crime, having an alibi is important. If you have an alibi that is backed by tangible evidence, you may be able to escape criminal charges or a conviction. You do not need an alibi only when you are charged with a serious crime. In fact, even a misdemeanor could benefit from an alibi, and convince the prosecution to drop the charges.

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, and you have an alibi, you need a criminal defense attorney. The prosecution’s job is to discredit your alibi and get a conviction. Avoid being charged with a crime you did not commit by speaking with a defense attorney from New Mexico Criminal Law Offices at 505-375-4765 or contact us online.