Crime dramas on television often involve a detective grilling a suspect who claims he or she was some place else during the commission of the crime. This is called the alibi defense. Although it is overused in Hollywood, it has can be a valid, effective defense in real life, as well.
If you raise the alibi defense, the jury will be instructed that if they have a reasonable doubt that you were present at the scene of the crime, the jury must find you not guilty. Now, this statement only applies if your presence at the scene of the crime is at issue. In other words, if the State claims you robbed the victim, but you have a witness who says you were in another state at the time.
Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.200 requires that you file a Notice of Alibi if the prosecuting attorney files a written demand. The notice must be filed 10 days prior to trial or whenever the judge designates and it must state with specificity:
- the place at which you claim to have been at the time of the alleged offense, and
- the names and addresses of the witnesses you plan to call to establish your alibi
Five days after you serve the Notice of Alibi on the State, the State shall file and serve on you the names and addresses of the alibi rebuttal witnesses.
If you or the State fail to disclose alibi witnesses under this rule, the judge can exclude the witnesses and evidence.
Sometimes it can be difficult to prove an alibi. What if you were in your house, alone at the time of the offense. How would you prove a negative? How would you prove that you weren't at the scene of the crime. In today's world, there are often ways to support your alibi defense. Through your testimony, other witnesses testimony, and a little investigation, you may be able to present a strong alibi defense. For example, were you driving through any areas that has surveillance video? Were you on your computer at the time? Did you have your cell phone with you, in which case, cell tower triangulation may be able to establish that you were nowhere near the commission of the offense.
To often, clients provide only partial alibis. In other words, they establish they were somewhere else at the approximate time of the offense, but their time at the actual time of the offense is still unaccounted for, other then their own testimony. It is extremely important to get with your attorney early and often to ensure that no stone is left unturned to establish and corroborate where you were at the actual time of the offense.
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