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The Key Role of an Alibi in Criminal Defense

Criminal defense attorneys commonly use various strategies in criminal proceedings to reduce the charges against their clients or secure their vindication. From self-defense and insanity to coercion and entrapment, a well-structured argument supported with credible evidence can successfully refute the prosecution’s case and ensure a miscarriage of justice does not occur.

When it comes to criminal defenses, one that most people are familiar with is the ‘alibi defense.’ Popularized throughout the years in TV shows and movies, an alibi also has significant legal ramifications that go beyond its dramatization. In this article, we will take a closer look at the alibi defense and its real-world applications in the realm of criminal defense.

What is an Alibi Defense?

The alibi defense asserts that the defendant could not have committed the crime they are being charged with as they were somewhere else when the crime occurred. If successfully raised, an alibi defense can result in an acquittal and ensure the wrong person is not accused of the crime. When raising an alibi defense, the defendant must prove the following elements:

  • They were not present at the scene of the crime when it occurred.
  • There was no reasonable opportunity for them to perpetrate the crime.
  • They could not have perpetrated the crime in any other way.

A defendant can successfully raise the alibi defense if they can put forward evidence to fulfill these criteria. In such situations, it is advisable to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney such as those at Purser Law who can help to gather compelling evidence in support of a defense. 

Proving an Alibi Defense

The defense must present evidence that places the defendant somewhere else when the crime took place. This evidence can take many forms such as:

  • An eyewitness who saw the defendant or was with them elsewhere when the crime was committed.
  • Time-stamped video footage or photographic evidence of the defendant at a different location to the crime scene.
  • Documentation that proves the defendant’s whereabouts at the time the crime took place such as a flight ticket, credit card receipt, hotel booking, phone record, or work attendance log. 

Although an alibi defense can successfully prove a defendant’s innocence it may still result in their acquittal when there is insufficient evidence to prove they were elsewhere when the crime took place. 

Burden on Proof

In a criminal investigation, the prosecution has the burden of proving ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that the defendant committed the crime. This means that if there is any doubt regarding the defendant’s guilt, they must be acquitted. By raising an alibi defense, the defense may succeed in introducing an element of doubt into criminal proceedings without the need to present conclusive evidence of the defendant’s whereabouts when the crime took place. 

However, this will depend on the overall strength and credibility of the alibi and the facts of the case. For example, a defendant may have an alibi defense based on the testimony of a witness. If their testimony is shown to be unreliable or untrustworthy it may fail to cast doubt on the defendant’s guilt.

Invoking the alibi defense in criminal proceedings can significantly help a defendant, however, the outcome will largely depend on the strength of their alibi and its ability to introduce the necessary element of doubt. 


Jeff Campbell