A verbal disagreement can quickly turn heated. And when it does, allegations of physical violence can follow. When this happens, you may find yourself on the receiving end of criminal charges. If you’re convicted on domestic violence allegations, you could end up seeing penalties that take away your freedom, your employment and even your housing. One of these convictions can also impact any custody matters that may be pending, thereby negatively impacting your relationship with your child.
With that in mind, you need to think about what you can do to aggressively defend yourself when you’re accused of domestic violence. While you might have a lot of options, depending on the facts of your case, there’s one key strategy that is often overlooked: attacking witness credibility.
Why witness credibility matters
In many domestic violence cases, there are very few witnesses to the incident in question. As a result, the prosecution heavily leans on the testimony of a few key witnesses. The judge or jury will then be tasked with determining whether that testimony is reliable. If it is, you’ll be at an increased risk of being convicted. If you can diminish the reliability of that testimony, you might be able to prevent the prosecution from meeting its burden of proof.
How can you attack witness credibility?
There are several ways to approach this issue. Let’s look at some of the best ways that you might be able to attack witness credibility in your case:
- Bias: In a lot of these sorts of cases, the prosecution’s witnesses are biased against the defendant. They might have a poor relationship with the defendant, and that negative animosity can taint their testimony or even cause the witness to outright lie. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure that the finder of fact in your case understands the witness’s perception of you.
- Inconsistent statements: Witnesses change their stories all the time. If you can highlight this for the judge or jury, you’ll be in a better position to diminish the power of a witness’s testimony. One of the best ways to do this is to conduct depositions where you lock in the witness’s testimony prior to trial and then use that depositional testimony to point out any inconsistencies that may arise when the witness gives their trial testimony.
- Criminal history: Not all criminal history can be used against a witness to attack their credibility, but those offenses related to dishonesty can be especially helpful in your case.
- Demeanor during testimony: The judge and jury aren’t limited to considering only the witness’s statements when it comes to assessing their credibility. Instead, the finder of fact can also assess the witness’s overall demeanor when testifying. Therefore, if you can ask relevant questions in a way that leaves the witness uncomfortable, unsure of how to answer and squirming to find the right words to explain their testimony, you might be better positioned to show that others should not believe the witness’s testimony.
Don’t let unreliable witnesses control your case
There’s certainly a lot at stake in your criminal case. With that in mind, you should think through everything you can do to try to protect yourself by building an aggressive criminal defense. While this means assessing the prosecution’s physical evidence and figuring out how to contradict it or minimize it, you also shouldn’t overlook the value of attacking witness credibility.
If you can approach your domestic violence case in a holistic fashion, you might be able to avoid conviction and the harsh penalties associated with it, which may allow you to reclaim your life in Washington state.