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Importance of Witnesses in Criminal Cases Criminal Law

Importance of Witnesses in Criminal Cases

8 months ago by Justin M. Schiks
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The gravity of witness testimony cannot be denied. One study found that about 77,000 individuals are named suspects in cases based solely on the statement of an eyewitness. 

Along with providing another piece of evidence to the case, witnesses can have a large impact on a jury’s verdict. Powerful eyewitness testimony may make or break your case.

If you are arrested, it is important to effectively use witness testimony. JS Defense would like to discuss the types of witnesses you may be able to call upon in a criminal case.

What is Witness Testimony?

A witness is a person who testifies under oath. Eyewitness testimony can be used as evidence in a criminal case. This testimony may be gathered by oral examination, deposition, or affidavit. 

In order to be eligible to testify, an eyewitness must be able to understand the oath and provide truthful information. Incompetent witnesses or those of unsound mind or intoxicated at the time of examination.

A witness may have seen the event unfold, may have knowledge in a particular subject area, or may provide information in reference to a person’s character. 

Types of Witnesses in a Criminal Trial

There are three types of witnesses in a criminal case:

Lay Witness

Also known as a fact witness, this is the most common type of witness. A lay witness has firsthand knowledge of a case and can provide information based on their connection to a case.

Many witnesses actually saw events unfold and will provide testimony on what took place. A lay witness may provide opinion testimony based on his or her personal knowledge.

Minnesota Rules of Evidence Rule 701 limits testimony that is based on opinion to:

  • Rationally based on the perception of the witness;
  • Helpful to a clear understanding of the witness’s testimony or the determination of a fact in issue; and
  • Not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702 (expert testimony).

Expert Witness 

An expert witness has specialized knowledge or training in a certain area. An expert witness can help jurors understand complex information by utilizing his or her training in the subject matter.

Expert witnesses can also provide opinion testimony on the authenticity of documents and other evidence. Expert witnesses may be called upon to explain medical terminology or to interpret forensic evidence findings.

Character Witness

A character witness is someone who personally knows the defendant, victim, or someone else involved in the case. A character witness probably did not see the crime take place. 

A character witness is usually a family friend, neighbor, family member, or clergy member. A character witness can testify to whether that person is reliable and trustworthy and what type of person they were before the crime. 

A criminal defense lawyer has years of experience working with different types of witnesses and will know which types will provide the most credibility to your case. 

How Does Witness Testimony Affect a Trial?

Witness testimony is a form of evidence and may be the only concrete evidence that a judge or jury considers when trying to come to a verdict. 

Eyewitnesses provide crucial information on what took place at a crime scene. Hearing a recounting of the event from someone who was actually there can cause a jury to weigh witness testimony more heavily than other types of evidence.

A Roseville, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Seeking Justice

If you have been accused of a crime, don’t underestimate witness testimony. If an eyewitness saw another person commit the crime, you stand a better chance of discrediting the prosecution. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and learn how we can assist you. 


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