Contrary to popular belief, an eyewitness does not guarantee a conviction. While they can be compelling, they are not always correct. Or, if they are correct, they are not always watertight enough to prove that someone committed a particular crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Here are some of the aspects to look at if an eyewitness is willing to testify against you:
Factors on the day
You are looking to throw into question their ability to see events clearly
- Distance: The further they were, the less likely they could see enough detail.
- Weather: Heavy rain or thick mist can obscure the view.
- Time of day: It is harder to see clearly at night than during the day. The sun setting in their eyes could also harm their accuracy.
- Obstructions: Did they have an unobstructed view, or were they seeing through something such as lines of passing cars?
- Lighting: This can be crucial at night. Was the area well-lit?
Factors related to the eyewitness themselves
You are looking to cast doubt on the person’s reliability as a witness:
- Eyesight: What is their distance eyesight like? If they need glasses, were they wearing them?
- Drink or drugs: These can cause blurry vision and inaccurate memory.
- Hours of sleep: Fatigue can have a similar effect to alcohol or drugs
- Personal motives: Maybe the eyewitness holds a grudge against you. Perhaps they are blaming you to protect themselves or someone else. Maybe they are doing it in the hope that a court will look favorably on their cooperation.
If you face criminal charges due to an eyewitness account, seek legal help to examine all your defense options. There may be far more than you think.