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What is an Alibi Defense and How Can I Use It?

In any criminal proceeding, there are two general defense strategies that can be employed. The first strategy is to challenge and attack the prosecution’s evidence and argue that the evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to convict the defendant of the crime with which he or she is charged. This strategy generally does not result in the defense putting on any witnesses or evidence of its own: rather, through cross-examination the defense attorney will seek to expose holes and weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.


            The second strategy involves the defense putting on evidence and/or testimony that seeks to discredit the prosecution’s theory or excuse the defendant’s behavior. One such “defense” used if this strategy is taken is the “alibi” defense.


What is an Alibi?


            When a defendant asserts an alibi as a defense, the defendant is essentially claiming that he or she is innocent of the crime charged because he or she was not present at the scene of the crime when the crime is alleged to have occurred. Instead, the defendant claims and demonstrates that when the crime was being committed he or she was at another location. For example, in an alleged burglary the defendant may claim that he could not have burglarized the home in Chicago because on that date he was visiting his parents in Texas.


How Effective is an Alibi?


            The effectiveness of an alibi defense will depend on the quality of the evidence and testimony the defendant has available to corroborate his or her alibi. For example, using the scenario above a defendant who simply testifies he or she was in Texas when the alleged crime was committed does not have a strong alibi defense. However, suppose that same defendant produces his or her plane tickets showing when he left for Texas and when he returned. Suppose further that he calls his parents or friends who saw him in Texas as witnesses and these individuals confirm that he was in fact in the Lone Star State when the prosecution claims the crime was committed. Under these facts, the defendant’s alibi defense is considerably stronger: the prosecution will have to disprove the defendant’s alibi by attacking the authenticity of the evidence (showing the plane tickets are forgeries) and/or the credibility of the witnesses (showing the witnesses are deliberately lying under oath).


How Do I Raise an Alibi Defense?


            Pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 413(d), if you plan to use an alibi to combat your criminal charges, you must provide written notification to the prosecution well in advance of trial. Your notice must include the details of your alibi – where you claim you were and/or what you claim you were doing at the alleged time of your crime – and should name any witnesses or evidence you plan to use to support your alibi. This gives the prosecutor an opportunity to investigate your alibi and determine whether he or she wishes to proceed with the prosecution. If the prosecution decides to proceed with the case, he or she must typically provide you with any witnesses or evidence he or she intends to use to disprove or challenge your alibi.

About the Author
Sami Azhari
Posted - 03/14/2016 | Illinois