Rule 12.1 Notice of an Alibi Defense
(1) Government's Request. An attorney for the government may request in writing that the defendant notify an attorney for the government of any intended alibi defense. The request must state the time, date, and place of the alleged offense.
(2) Defendant's Response. Within 14 days after the request, or at some other time the court sets, the defendant must serve written notice on an attorney for the government of any intended alibi defense. The defendant's notice must state:
(A) In General. If the defendant serves a Rule 12.1(a)(2) notice, an attorney for the government must disclose in writing to the defendant or the defendant's attorney:
(i) the name of each witness—and the address and telephone number of each witness other than a victim—that the government intends to rely on to establish that the defendant was present at the scene of the alleged offense; and
(B) Victim's Address and Telephone Number. If the government intends to rely on a victim's testimony to establish that the defendant was present at the scene of the alleged offense and the defendant establishes a need for the victim's address and telephone number, the court may:
(2) Time to Disclose. Unless the court directs otherwise, an attorney for the government must give its Rule 12.1(b)(1) disclosure within 14 days after the defendant serves notice of an intended alibi defense under Rule 12.1(a)(2), but no later than 14 days before trial.
(1) In General. Both an attorney for the government and the defendant must promptly disclose in writing to the other party the name of each additional witness—and the address and telephone number of each additional witness other than a victim—if:
(B) the witness should have been disclosed under Rule 12.1(a) or (b) if the disclosing party had known of the witness earlier.
(2) Address and Telephone Number of an Additional Victim Witness. The address and telephone number of an additional victim witness must not be disclosed except as provided in Rule 12.1 (b)(1)(B).
(d) Exceptions. For good cause, the court may grant an exception to any requirement of Rule 12.1(a)–(c).
(e) Failure to Comply. If a party fails to comply with this rule, the court may exclude the testimony of any undisclosed witness regarding the defendant's alibi. This rule does not limit the defendant's right to testify.
(f) Inadmissibility of Withdrawn Intention. Evidence of an intention to rely on an alibi defense, later withdrawn, or of a statement made in connection with that intention, is not, in any civil or criminal proceeding, admissible against the person who gave notice of the intention.
(Added Apr. 22, 1974, eff. Dec. 1, 1975; amended Pub. L. 94–64, §3(13), July 31, 1975, 89 Stat. 372; Apr. 29, 1985, eff. Aug. 1, 1985; Mar. 9, 1987, eff. Aug. 1, 1987; Apr. 29, 2002, eff. Dec. 1, 2002; Apr. 23, 2008, eff. Dec. 1, 2008; Mar. 26, 2009, eff. Dec. 1, 2009.)
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1974
Rule 12.1 is new. See rule 87 of the United States District Court Rules for the District of Columbia for a somewhat comparable provision.
The Advisory Committee has dealt with the issue of notice of alibi on several occasions over the course of the past three decades. In the Preliminary Draft of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 1943, and the Second Preliminary Draft, 1944, an alibi-notice rule was proposed. But the Advisory Committee was closely divided upon whether there should be a rule at all and, if there were to be a rule, what the form of the rule should be. Orfield, The Preliminary Draft of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 22 Texas L.Rev. 37, 57–58 (1943). The principal disagreement was whether the prosecutor or the defendant should initiate the process. The Second Preliminary Draft published in 1944 required the defendant to initiate the process by a motion to require the government to state with greater particularity the time and place it would rely on. Upon receipt of this information, defendant was required to give his notice of alibi. This formulation was “vehemently objected” to by five members of the committee (out of a total of eighteen) and two alternative rule proposals were submitted to the Supreme Court. Both formulations—one requiring the prosecutor to initiate the process, the other requiring the defendant to initiate the process—were rejected by the Court. See Epstein, Advance Notice of Alibi, 55 J.Crim.L., C. & P.S. 29, 30 (1964), in which the view is expressed that the unresolved split over the rule “probably caused” the court to reject an alibi-notice rule.
Rule 12.1 embodies an intermediate position. The initial burden is upon the defendant to raise the defense of alibi, but he need not specify the details of his alibi defense until the government specifies the time, place, and date of alleged offense. Each party must, at the appropriate time, disclose the names and addresses of witnesses.
In 1962 the Advisory Committee drafted an alibi-notice rule and included it in the Preliminary Draft of December 1962, rule 12A at pp. 5–6. This time the Advisory Committee withdrew the rule without submitting it to the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. Wright, Proposed Changes in Federal Civil, Criminal, and Appellate Procedure, 35 F.R.D. 317, 326 (1964). Criticism of the December 1962 alibi-notice rule centered on constitutional questions and questions of general fairness to the defendant. See Everett, Discovery in Criminal Cases—In Search of a Standard, 1964 Duke L.J. 477, 497–499.
Doubts about the constitutionality of a notice-of-alibi rule were to some extent resolved by Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78, 90 S.Ct. 1893, 26 L.Ed.2d 446 (1970). In that case the court sustained the constitutionality of the Florida notice-of-alibi statute, but left unresolved two important questions.
(1) The court said that it was not holding that a notice-of-alibi requirement was valid under conditions where a defendant does not enjoy “reciprocal discovery against the State.” 399 U.S. at 82 n. 11, 90 S.Ct. 1893. Under the revision of rule 16, the defendant is entitled to substantially enlarged discovery in federal cases, and it would seem appropriate to conclude that the rules will comply with the “reciprocal discovery” qualification of the Williams decision. [See, Wardius v. Oregon, 412 U.S. 470, 93 S.Ct. 2208, 37 L.Ed.2d 82 (1973) was decided after the approval of proposed Rule 12.1 by the Judicial Conference of the United States. In that case the Court held the Oregon Notice-of-Alibi statute unconstitutional because of the failure to give the defendant adequate reciprocal discovery rights.]
(2) The court said that it did not consider the question of the “validity of the threatened sanction, had petitioner chosen not to comply with the notice-of-alibi rule.” 399 U.S. at 83 n. 14, 90 S.Ct. 1893. This issue remains unresolved. [See Wardius v. Oregon, 412 U.S. at 472, Note 4, 93 S.Ct. 2208.] Rule 12.1(e) provides that the court may exclude the testimony of any witness whose name has not been disclosed pursuant to the requirements of the rule. The defendant may, however, testify himself. Prohibiting from testifying a witness whose name was not disclosed is a common provision in state statutes. See Epstein, supra, at 35. It is generally assumed that the sanction is essential if the notice-of-alibi rule is to have practical significance. See Epstein, supra, at 36. The use of the term “may” is intended to make clear that the judge may allow the alibi witness to testify if, under the particular circumstances, there is cause shown for the failure to conform to the requirements of the rules. This is further emphasized by subdivision (f) which provides for exceptions whenever “good cause” is shown for the exception.
The Supreme Court of Illinois recently upheld an Illinois statute which requires a defendant to give notice of his alibi witnesses although the prosecution is not required to disclose its alibi rebuttal witnesses. People v. Holiday, 47 Ill.2d 300, 265 N.E.2d 634 (1970). Because the defense complied with the requirement, the court did not have to consider the propriety of penalizing noncompliance.
The requirement of notice of alibi seems to be an increasingly common requirement of state criminal procedure. State statutes and court rules are cited in 399 U.S. at 82 n. 11, 90 S.Ct. 1893. See also Epstein, supra.
Rule 12.1 will serve a useful purpose even though rule 16 now requires disclosure of the names and addresses of government and defense witnesses. There are cases in which the identity of defense witnesses may be known, but it may come as a surprise to the government that they intend to testify as to an alibi and there may be no advance notice of the details of the claimed alibi. The result often is an unnecessary interruption and delay in the trial to enable the government to conduct an appropriate investigation. The objective of rule 12.1 is to prevent this by providing a mechanism which will enable the parties to have specific information in advance of trial to prepare to meet the issue of alibi during the trial.
Notes of Committee on the Judiciary, House Report No. 94–247; 1975 Amendment
A. Amendments Proposed by the Supreme Court. Rule 12.1 is a new rule that deals with the defense of alibi. It provides that a defendant must notify the government of his intention to rely upon the defense of alibi. Upon receipt of such notice, the government must advise the defendant of the specific time, date, and place at which the offense is alleged to have been committed. The defendant must then inform the government of the specific place at which he claims to have been when the offense is alleged to have been committed, and of the names and addresses of the witnesses on whom he intends to rely to establish his alibi. The government must then inform the defendant of the names and addresses of the witnesses on whom it will rely to establish the defendant's presence at the scene of the crime. If either party fails to comply with the provisions of the rule, the court may exclude the testimony of any witness whose identity is not disclosed. The rule does not attempt to limit the right of the defendant to testify in his own behalf.
B. Committee Action. The Committee disagrees with the defendant-triggered procedures of the rule proposed by the Supreme Court. The major purpose of a notice-of-alibi rule is to prevent unfair surprise to the prosecution. The Committee, therefore, believes that it should be up to the prosecution to trigger the alibi defense discovery procedures. If the prosecution is worried about being surprised by an alibi defense, it can trigger the alibi defense discovery procedures. If the government fails to trigger the procedures and if the defendant raises an alibi defense at trial, then the government cannot claim surprise and get a continuance of the trial.
The Committee has adopted a notice-of-alibi rule similar to the one now used in the District of Columbia. [See Rule 2–5(b) of the Rules of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. See also Rule 16–1 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.] The rule is prosecution-triggered. If the prosecutor notifies the defendant of the time, place, and date of the alleged offense, then the defendant has 10 days in which to notify the prosecutor of his intention to rely upon an alibi defense, specify where he claims to have been at the time of the alleged offense, and provide a list of his alibi witnesses. The prosecutor, within 10 days but no later than 10 days before trial, must then provide the defendant with a list of witnesses who will place the defendant at the scene of the alleged crime and those witnesses who will be used to rebut the defendant's alibi witnesses.
The Committee's rule does not operate only to the benefit of the prosecution. In fact, its rule will provide the defendant with more information than the rule proposed by the Supreme Court. The rule proposed by the Supreme Court permits the defendant to obtain a list of only those witnesses who will place him at the scene of the crime. The defendant, however, would get the names of these witnesses anyway as part of his discovery under Rule 16(a)(1)(E). The Committee rule not only requires the prosecution to provide the names of witnesses who place the defendant at the scene of the crime, but it also requires the prosecution to turn over the names of those witnesses who will be called in rebuttal to the defendant's alibi witnesses. This is information that the defendant is not otherwise entitled to discover.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1985 Amendment
Note to Subdivision (f). This clarifying amendment is intended to serve the same purpose as a comparable change made in 1979 to similar language in Rule 11(e)(6). The change makes it clear that evidence of a withdrawn intent or of statements made in connection therewith is thereafter inadmissible against the person who gave the notice in any civil or criminal proceeding, without regard to whether the proceeding is against that person.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment
The amendments are technical. No substantive change is intended.
Committee Notes on Rules—2002 Amendment
The language of Rule 12.1 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Criminal Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only, except as noted below.
Current Rules 12.1(d) and 12.1(e) have been switched in the amended rule to improve the organization of the rule.
Finally, the amended rule includes a new requirement that in providing the names and addresses of alibi and any rebuttal witnesses, the parties must also provide the phone numbers of those witnesses. See Rule 12.1(a)(2), Rule 12.1(b)(1), and Rule 12.1(c). The Committee believed that requiring such information would facilitate locating and interviewing those witnesses.
Committee Notes on Rules—2008 Amendment
Subdivisions (b) and (c). The amendment implements the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which states that victims have the right to be reasonably protected from the accused and to be treated with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy. See 18 U.S.C. §3771(a)(1) & (8). The rule provides that a victim's address and telephone number should not automatically be provided to the defense when an alibi defense is raised. If a defendant establishes a need for this information, the court has discretion to order its disclosure or to fashion an alternative procedure that provides the defendant with the information necessary to prepare a defense, but also protects the victim's interests.
In the case of victims who will testify concerning an alibi claim, the same procedures and standards apply to both the prosecutor's initial disclosure and the prosecutor's continuing duty to disclose under subdivision (c).
Changes Made to Proposed Amendment Released for Public Comment. The Committee made very minor changes in the text at the suggestion of the Style Consultant. The Committee revised the Note in response to public comments, omitting the suggestion that the court might upon occasion have the defendant and victim meet.
Committee Notes on Rules—2009 Amendment
The times set in the former rule at 10 days have been revised to 14 days. See the Committee Note to Rule 45(a).
Amendment by Public Law
1975 —Pub. L. 94–64 amended Rule 12.1 generally.
Effective Date of Rule; Effective Date of 1975 Amendments
This rule, and the amendments of this rule made by section 3 of Pub. L. 94–64, effective Dec. 1, 1975, see section 2 of Pub. L. 94–64, set out as a note under rule 4 of these rules.