Anyone who has ever watched a police procedural on television has either heard the question “do you have an alibi?”, or has heard the statement “I have an alibi.” Other than that circumstance, it is not a word used in common everyday language. What does it mean? You are about to find out.
In this blog, we will discuss alibi as it relates to criminal law, what it means, and when it applies. Like all of our blogs, this is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a criminal defense attorney.
What is an alibi?
An alibi is a defense that can be used in a criminal trial. An alibi is legal term for the defendant trying to prove that he or she was somewhere else at the time the alleged offense took place. This is in an attempt to show actual innocence, or simply that he or she could not have done it.
Alibis are usually shown through testimony of a witness that will testify that the defendant was with that person at the time the alleged incident took place. It can also be shown through other forms of evidence, including but not limited to:
- A video showing the defendant somewhere else when the alleged crime took place
- A photograph that shows the defendant somewhere else at the time of the alleged offense
- A sign in sheet or other form of time stamp to show that the defendant was somewhere else at the time of the alleged offense
- Satellite tracking through the defendant’s phone or other electronic device to show that he was somewhere else at the time of the alleged offense.
Notice of alibi defenses in criminal trials
Like many other defenses, this cannot be brought on as a surprise or on a whim. The defense must give notice both to the court and to the government that they plan to use alibi as a defense. Further, if an alibi witness is supposed to testify, the defense must give the government the name of that person so that they are able to contact him or her and have the opportunity to speak with them, prior to trial.
In some circumstances, other information that will be used to show an alibi must also be turned over to the prosecution, prior to the commencement of a trial.
Burden of proof is on the defendant
Generally, the defendant in a criminal case is presumed innocent and it is the burden of the government to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reason doubt. Although the government still has to prove the defendant guilty of every element of the charged crime, it is up to the defendant to prove the existence of an alibi.
Criminal defense can get very complicated, very fast. If you have been charged with a crime, contact us. Gilles Law handles state and federal criminal defense matters, in North Carolina and South Carolina.