Yes, You Can be Charged on Witness Statements Alone

May 10, 2021

When you think of evidence police need to lay charges, you might imagine DNA samples, security video footage, fingerprints, and recorded phone messages. Many people assume witness statements alone are not enough for police to lay charges. That police need more that just a witness statement. But in fact, eyewitness statements alone are actually the most common forms of evidence at trial. The reality is that there is not always video surveillance cameras around to record events. That DNA in and of itself can be meaningless in many situations.

In this post, we’ll look at how witnesses can be used and what your lawyer can do to help defend you against eyewitness statements in a trial. 

Evidence and Testimony at a Criminal Trial

A witness testimony at trial is a retelling of the relevant facts and events that took place during a dispute. A witness statement can be spoken orally but eventually will need to be written down in a document and signed to be used as evidence in a trial.  

While it may seem unfair, there are circumstances in which eyewitness testimony is enough for you to be charged and convicted in the absence of other evidence. In cases of assault, sexual assault or domestic violence the witness statement of the alleged victim IS considered testimonial evidence against you as long as the judge and jury finds it to be credible. 

Courts and police take domestic assault accusations very seriously and are under strict guidelines about proceeding with cases. They are under obligation to press charges if they have evidence of abuse, including a witness statement. If a victim makes a statement about an assault, then wants to drop the charges, the police and crown attorney cannot simply drop the case. 

The Crown Attorney is required to have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person is guilty of the crime they are alleged to have committed. Evidence that proves guilt is required.

What Are The Regulations Around Witness Statements?

An eyewitness statement must be made under oath and is considered evidence because the person is willing to testify to what they saw. A statement can be from the alleged victim or a third party who is willing to say they saw you commit a criminal offence. In this case, the evidence is someone saying that the crime occurred. 

Sometimes when witnesses make written statements, they do not include all relevant information, or the statement is unclear. In this case, there may be an interview between the lawyer and the witness and a new draft made of the statement that satisfies the lawyers. 

A judge or jury must consider the credibility of a witness and decide if what the witness says is true. In a trial, the judge or jury would also consider other evidence, if there is any and the accused’s statement and weigh them against the witness statement. 

How Can A Lawyer Defend Against Witness Statements?

It is possible to be charged and convicted simply on another person’s false accusation if the judge or jury finds the witness statement credible. 

During a trial, a defence lawyer may try to undermine the credibility of an eyewitness and cause the judge or jury to question their testimony. Some common tactics are to show that the witness is inconsistent in their statements if their statements differ in an earlier trial or police interview. They may also offer other types of evidence that contradict the witness statement to call into question the witness testimony. 

If you or a loved one has been charged with an offence due to a witness statement, you need expert advice from an experienced criminal defence lawyer. William Jaksa has decades of experience defending individuals and can help you understand your case. Contact William Jaksa today for a consultation on your case.

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