An alibi witness is a witness that a criminal defendant calls upon to establish that they were somewhere other than at the scene of the crime at the time it occurred. It essentially allows the defendant to present evidence suggesting that they could have not have committed a crime because they were not at the location of the crime at the time that it happened.
However, in order to have a valid defense through an alibi witness, the defendant must first give notice that they are planning on using an alibi witness. If the defendant fails to do so, this would allow a prosecutor to refute an alibi witness defense and preclude the defendant from using the defense.
Furthermore, the prosecutor may also deny an alibi witness on the basis of misidentification and questioning of the witnesses credibility. Claims of misidentification and alibi are matters dealing with credibility of witnesses and are generally determinable by jury in criminal prosecutions (People v Smalls). A prosecutor may challenge the credibility of an alibi witness in circumstances in which he reasonably believes that the witness is lying in an attempt to protect the criminal defendant. Questions on the credibility of witnesses are especially common when the defendant chooses family, friends or anybody with whom they have a close relationship.
In California, under the Penal Code 1054.3 defendants must provide prosecutors with:
- the names of any witnesses and how they are going to testify
- any real evidence which the defendant plans on giving at trial.
See also: criminal law
[Last updated in December of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]