When you’re on trial in Indiana, it makes sense to use every resource possible to reinforce your case. After all, your future is on the line and everyone close to you knows you would never commit the crime(s) you’re being accused of.
We frequently hear from clients who want to bring a close friend to the stand to provide testimony on their behalf. This is referred to as a “character witness” and certainly could help, but we’re here to tell you that Indiana criminal courts do NOT allow character testimony. This might seem heinous for those who have plenty of people willing to testify for them, but there are several reasons this just isn’t allowed.
Character Testimony is Mostly Hearsay and Easily Countered
One of the main reasons this isn’t allowed is that past behavior isn’t always a predictor of future behavior. Just because the people around you don’t believe you could ever commit a crime doesn’t mean you didn’t act on impulse or step outside your normal habits. It also doesn’t mean they know you well enough to make such a determination. Because of this, character testimony is just hearsay that doesn’t have value in the courtroom.
The other side of this is that the prosecution could easily hunt down people from your past who aren’t your biggest fans who would be able to testify against you. If this were allowed every criminal case would turn into a parade to the witness stand to see which side can get more people to vouch for or against the defendants. It’d be a waste of everyone’s time and muddy the waters of real evidence.
When the Character of the Witness Matters
Now, what about character testimony against witnesses? If you are put into a corner because a witness comes in and has damning information against you then your case could be a lost cause. However, a good defense attorney will be able to look into the past of such witnesses to learn more about information from their past that could make them unreliable witnesses.
A witness can’t be denied because they were a bad parent or left their dog out on the side of the street during the winter, but they can be dismissed because of a history of criminal dishonesty. Have they been charged with fraud, forgery, burglary, robbery, bribery, perjury, or another similar crime? This will be relevant as there’s evidence that they don’t use the best judgment or have the best of intentions in the way they carry themselves. These charges would need to be recent enough for the court to consider them, however, so, again, a good attorney will work to find the necessary information to defend your case.
Of course, if a witness attempts to enter hearsay into the record or says something that’s been proven false already then your attorney will generally motion to have this stricken from the record. In some cases, it’s best to let inconsequential hearsay go because drawing too much attention to it can make it harder for the jury not to fixate on it.
All of this shows exactly why choosing the right Indiana criminal defense attorney makes all the difference. An experienced defense attorney will know when to step in and get information wiped from the record or will be able to dig into a witness’ past to delegitimize what they have to say against you. At Blankenship Law, we have taken part in countless cases and know exactly what it takes to get results for our clients. When you’re accused of a crime or make a mistake, contact our firm to make sure you don’t end up paying for it for the rest of your life.