This post will answer some frequently asked questions on the legal defense of alibi.
What is alibi evidence?
Testimony suggesting that the defendant was not present at the place and time when the offense charged in the complaint is alleged to have occurred is called alibi evidence.
Remember that in legal language, the word “alibi” does not necessarily have a sinister connotation. It simply is a shorthand phrase referring to a very important question in the case:
Did the defendant commit the crime as charged, or was he or she elsewhere at the time and therefore necessarily innocent?
Who has the burden of proving someone was present at the scene of a crime?
The government has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offense charged, which of course includes proving that the defendant was present at the scene of the offense and not somewhere else at the time.
Remember that the defendant has no duty to call witnesses or produce evidence establishing that:
Note that the language of a charge against a defendant should not suggest that the defendant has some burden to “substantiate” his or her alibi in order to “create” a reasonable doubt.
It is the duty of jurors to decide whether or not they believe alibi evidence presented by a defendant:
If an alibi witness does not come forward can they be dismissed as a credible witness?
Under common law, a defendant or witness may exercise his or her legal “right to silence”. The “right to silence” is the idea that a person should not be able to incriminate himself or herself simply by saying nothing at all.
However, there are certain circumstances in which an alibi witness’s pretrial silence can constitute grounds for impeachment (i.e. a formal challenge of the credibility of a witness testifying in a trial).
The Commonwealth may impeach a defense witness other than the defendant with his or her pretrial silence only if ALL of the following are proved beyond a reasonable doubt:
2. The witness had reason to make such exculpatory information available
3. The witness was familiar with the way to report this exculpatory information to the proper authorities
4. Neither the defendant nor defense counsel asked the witness to refrain from reporting such exculpatory information
Can a judge ever exclude an alibi witness’s testimony if that witness comes forward later?
Under the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution and Article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, under some circumstances, a judge is permitted to exclude a late-disclosed (i.e. late discovered/included) alibi witness.
If the late-disclosed alibi witness is a previously undisclosed alibi witness, the judge may:
In this scenario, it is the duty of the judge to balance the fair and efficient administration of justice against getting all material evidence before the jury.
The exclusion can be warranted on one or two of both of the following grounds:
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.