criminal defense lawyer

What You Need to Know about the Defense of Alibi in Tennessee

criminal defense lawyerOne of the first things you should do if you were recently arrested and charged with a criminal offense is to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Together, you can plan your defense. The approach you take to your defense will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your case; however, there are some common defense strategies that will likely be considered. One defense you have likely heard of is the defense of alibi. An alibi defense only works under very specific conditions, as explained by a Tennessee criminal defense lawyer from Bennett, Michael & Hornsby.

Alibi Basics

The defense of alibi is a defense asserted by a defendant that effectively says “I would not have committed the crime for which I am charged because I was somewhere else at the time in question.” Generally, when a defendant asserts a defense of alibi, the defendant has at least one (and preferably several) witnesses who are prepared to testify that he/she was somewhere else when the crime was committed. The success of an alibi defense often hinges on the credibility of the witnesses. If your only witness is your spouse or parent, for example, you have a weak alibi defense because those people are more likely to lie for you. On the other hand, if you can present ten strangers who saw you in a restaurant at the time in question, you have a strong alibi witness.

In the United States criminal justice system, the State (through the prosecuting attorney) bears the burden of proving that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Most laws and procedural rules within the criminal justice system reflect this burden. The prosecutor, for example, is required to “discover” to the defense all evidence and witnesses it intends to produce at trial. This rule assures that the defendant is able to properly prepare his or her defense. As a general rule, a defendant is not required to notify the prosecution of its defense strategy; however, there are certain things the defense must also discover to the State regarding its defense. For example, if a defendant plans to use an alibi defense, there are specific procedural notice requirements that must be followed or the defense will not be able to be presented at trial.

Notice of Alibi in Tennessee

Rule 12.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure governs the defense of alibi when asserted by a defendant and reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

(1) State’s Request for Notice of Alibi Defense. A district attorney general who desires disclosure of a potential alibi defense shall serve the defendant with a written request to be notified of an intention to offer an alibi defense. The request shall state the time, date, and place at which the alleged offense was committed.

(2) Defendant’s Notice in Response. On written request of the district attorney general under Rule 12.1(a)(1), the defendant intending to offer an alibi defense shall serve on the district attorney general a written notice of this intention.

(A) Content. The defendant’s notice shall state:

(i) the specific place or places at which the defendant claims to have been at the time of the alleged offense; and

(ii) the name and address of each alibi witness on whom the defendant intends to rely.

(B) Timing. Unless the court directs otherwise, the defendant shall serve such notice within ten days of the state’s request.

(1) Disclosure. If the defendant serves a notice pursuant to Rule 12.1(a)(2), the district attorney general shall disclose in writing to the defendant the name and address of:

(A) each witness on whom the state intends to rely to establish the defendant’s presence at the scene of the alleged offense; and

(B) each witness on whom the state intends to rely to rebut testimony of any of the defendant’s alibi witnesses.

(2) Timing. Unless the court directs otherwise, the district attorney general shall serve this notice within ten days after receiving defendant’s notice of alibi but in no event less than ten days before trial.

In essence, what Rule 12.1 does is requires a defendant to notify the prosecuting attorney of his/her intent to assert an alibi defense and provide relevant information related to that defense. The prosecuting attorney then has the opportunity to investigate that alibi claim. If the prosecuting attorney does not believe the alibi defense, and plans to introduce evidence to that effect, he/she is also required to notify the defendant of that fact and share that evidence.  Of particular importance is the timing requirement within the rule. If you do have a viable alibi defense, yet you fail to notify the prosecuting attorney about that defense within the required time frame, you could be prohibited from using the defense at trial.

Contact a Tennessee Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have additional questions or concerns about the defense of alibi in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Dinah Michael