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Family and Criminal Law Blog

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Impeaching Witness Credibility

The credibility of a witness can have a big impact on the weight the witness testimony is given. For witnesses with solid credibility, testimony will likely be compelling and given significant weight. For those witnesses with questionable credibility, testimony is likely to be met with skepticism at the very least. Defenses attorneys know this and how impeaching, or attacking, the credibility of prosecution witnesses can play a critical role in the case in its entirety.

Impeaching Witness Credibility

A defense attorney will attempt to impeach prosecution witnesses in order to demonstrate to the jury that the testimony of such witnesses should not be believed or taken at face value. In order to impeach these witnesses, they are questioned on the stand about a number of issues. There are several categories which are open to defense counsel in order to impeach a witness’s credibility.

For instance, a witness may be impeached by calling his or her competency into question. This may be accomplished by undermining the witness’s ability to communicate about or recall events accurately. The competency of a witness can also be undermined in circumstances where he or she may have been impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of making certain observations.

The partiality and motive of a witness can also be relevant for impeachment purposes. Why might a witness be testifying in a certain manner? Uncovering potential biases or prejudices, as well as other potential motivations for the witness’s testimony can be a compelling way to show that the testimony may not necessarily be guided by the truth, but other ulterior motives.

There are several other ways to show that a witness may not be reliable. Prior inconsistent statements made by the witness is one way to accomplish this. As is presentation of certain crimes the witness may have previously been convicted of that call his or her moral turpitude into question. Crimes that involve dishonesty and making false statements are particularly compelling for these purposes. Prior felony convictions can also be useful for these purposes as can other acts and evidence demonstrating that the witness tends to have a reputation for dishonesty.

The way a witness acts on the witness stand can also be an effective basis for impeachment. Juries will notice how a witness behaves and highlighting this can be a way to effectively undermine witness testimony. Some witnesses may have an attitude of reluctance, hesitancy, or downright fear. An effective impeachment strategy may be to bring to light the fact that this fear may be based on a witness testifying due to being under threat of prosecution for his or her own role in a crime. Other witnesses may have an overall bad attitude about testifying which can also be effectively used to undermine testimony and impeach credibility.

Texas Criminal Defense Attorneys

Witness testimony in a criminal case can be compelling evidence. A skilled defense attorney will know how to undermine the credibility of prosecution witnesses. At Navarrete & Schwartz, we are experienced criminal defense attorneys prepared to fight for our clients. We are proud to serve the residence of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.


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Navarrete & Schwartz, P.C. is located in Midland, Texas and serves the surrounding cities and counties, including: Odessa in Ector County, Andrews County, Martin County, Howard County, Winkler County and Crane County.



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