Impeaching a Witness
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What Is Witness Impeachment?
Impeachment is the process to attack the credibility of a witness. Once attacked, the witness' statements will not be used to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Parties may impeach their opponents' witnesses or even their own witnesses.
How Can I Impeach a Witness?
There are many ways to impeach a witness. The most common methods include using prior inconsistent statements and criminal records. The purpose of impeachment is to show that the witness is not a reliable source of information and that the jury should not believe that witness.
- Prior Inconsistent Statements
Prior inconsistent statement is a statement of material fact the witness made at a previous occasion that differs from the statement we are trying to impeach. Once shown, jury will doubt the credibility of the witness. In essence, anything that the witness says will not be considered.
For example, the opponent's witness is on the stand during a trial and is recalling a car accident event. This is the second time the witness is giving the story, but this time the story is different. The witness now claims the police were on scene before the accident occurred, but in his previous statement, the witness stated the police arrived after the accident. These two conflicting statements shows that the witnesses does not have an accurate account of the event and may not be reliable as a source.
- Criminal Records
Impeachment via criminal records is a method to show that the witness has a criminal record and as a result is not as trustworthy as a witness without a criminal record. Depending on which state the trial is held, the nature of the crime, and the age of the criminal conviction, this form of impeachment may not be possible. Additionally, criminal convictions over 10 years old may not be used.
The general consensus is that crimes involving dishonesty (i.e. fraud, forgery, and embezzlement) and felony convictions with more than one year of prison time may be used for impeachment. However, any crimes that have been expunged may not be used. As for juvenile records, the judge must determine that it is important to the jury's decision.
Consulting an Attorney
If you are facing impeachment issues with your case, then you should consult a criminal law lawyer. He can go over what can be used for impeachment, what happens if you are to be impeached, and what if you do not have a clear recollection of the events.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 11-25-2015 10:15 PM PST
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