Friday, October 18, 2013

Discrediting Witnesses

Sometimes when I send client's the opposing sides' witness list, they immediately respond with you can't trust John because he is a criminal. When I ask for details, they do not always know or often they are not things that we can use in court.

If you have evidence of the witness being CONVICTED of a felony or of a misdemeanor that is based on a dishonest act (fraud, theft, perjury) within the past 10 years then you can use that to discredit the witness. However if the witness does not testify truthfully, you will need to have a certified copy of the court record indicating the conviction for the crime. Otherwise, you have to drop the issue after the witness answers no to the question regarding convictions. In California, you cannot ask generally about arrests, but you can ask generally about felony convictions that have occurred within the past 10 years.

If you truly believe that one of the witnesses has been convicted of a felony, then it is often a good idea to hire a private investigator to do the background checks. Otherwise you can go down to the various courthouses and do a check based on their name, city, and birth date. However, this often takes a lot of time and visits to various courthouses. The private investigator is often well worth the extra money for their services.