If you have been accused of a crime, then you probably have a lot on your mind. You might worry about your reputation and the potential penalties you could face, and you might be concerned about how your day in court will play out. It is important to note that a criminal conviction can only be obtained if guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high hurdle that requires the prosecution to provide indisputable and credible evidence.
Oftentimes, prosecutors’ cases rely on witness testimony. Yet, this gives rise to many issues that can be helpful to either the prosecution or the defense, depending on how it is handled. In these instances, a witness’s character and bias may come into play. If that bias or questionable character is not revealed to the jury, then the witness’s statements may be taken with full force. Expose the bias and questionable characteristics, though, and the potentially damaging testimony may be taken with a grain of salt.
When it comes to attacking or supporting a witness’s character or reputation, an attorney has to know the rules of evidence and how to utilize them. For example, a witness’s character as it relates to being truthful can only be admissible if the witness’s character has already been attacked from the other side. In other words, you cannot buttress a witness’s truthful character up front if you called the witness. If the other side called the witness, however, then you can be the first to attack their reputation for truthfulness.
This is a mere drop in the bucket in the realm of the rules of evidence and how it pertains to witnesses and their testimony. The rules of engagement in a criminal trial, though beneficial for having a fair and efficient trial, can also make all the difference when utilized properly. So, if you are facing allegations of criminal wrongdoing, you should do yourself a favor and surround yourself with people who know the law and how to use it to your advantage.
Source: Legal Information Institute, “Rule 608. A Witness,” accessed on Nov. 20, 2015