Asserting an Alibi Defense to a Murder Charge – California PC 187(a)

April 1, 2023

An alibi defense is a legal strategy in which a defendant argues that they were not present at the scene of the crime when it occurred. In California, an alibi defense can be used in a murder case, which is defined under Penal Code 187(a) as the unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought.

To assert an alibi defense, the defendant must provide evidence that they were somewhere else at the time of the murder. This evidence can include witness testimony, photographs, video footage, receipts, or other documentation that can place the defendant at a different location. It is important to note that the alibi evidence should be sufficient enough to create a reasonable doubt that the defendant was present at the scene of the crime.

The defendant must give sufficient notice of their intent to assert an alibi defense to the prosecution before the trial begins. This notice must include the names and addresses of any alibi witnesses that the defendant intends to call to testify. Failure to provide this notice can result in the alibi evidence being excluded from the trial.

The prosecution has the right to investigate the alibi defense, this includes the right to interview any alibi witnesses and gather evidence that contradicts or discredits the alibi defense. In some cases, the prosecution may also hire their own expert witness to evaluate the alibi evidence and testify as to its credibility.

The defense has the burden of proof when asserting an alibi defense, which means that the defendant must prove that it is more likely than not that they were not present at the scene of the crime when it occurred. The prosecution, on the other hand, has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is important to note that an alibi defense is not always a successful strategy, especially if the prosecution has strong evidence linking the defendant to the crime. For example, if the prosecution has DNA evidence or eyewitness testimony placing the defendant at the scene of the crime, an alibi defense may be difficult to prove.

Additionally, even if the alibi defense is successful, it does not necessarily mean that the defendant will be acquitted of the murder charge. The prosecution may still be able to prove that the defendant was involved in the crime in some other way, such as by planning or assisting in the murder.

Attorney John D. Rogers is an Orange County criminal defense attorney. He is a board-certified criminal law specialist by the State Bar of California. His office is located in Newport Beach, CA and he represents clients throughout Southern California in state and federal matters. If you’re seeking legal representation, give the Law Offices of John D. Rogers a call to schedule a free consultation.

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