Domestic violence charges are often built on reports of what occurred in private. As a result, a decision made in the heat of the moment or the report of a well-meaning bystander could lead to charges even if other evidence does not paint a clear picture of what occurred. How accurate are eyewitness reports?
Many different factors can influence how a witness remembers the event.
While the testimony of an eyewitness can be emotionally moving, it may not be strictly accurate, and a wide variety of factors can influence testimony. The stress of an argument can influence the focus of a report or the way that a person remembers an incident. Leading questions can not only lead a witness to a specific answer, but they can also change the witness’s memory itself to align with that answer.
In the case of a bystander reporting an incident, still more factors could influence their testimony and memory. Buildings, curtains or other objects could block their view, and poor eyesight, inclement weather or distance could all make it difficult to see what actually happens. It could also be easy for witnesses to misinterpret the sounds or words they hear. They may even be unconsciously influenced by racial prejudice or the genders of those involved.
With so much uncertainty surrounding eyewitness testimony, it can be important for those accused of domestic violence to discuss their case with an experienced attorney. If you face charges, they can help identify any potential issues with a testimony and use other evidence to build a defense that protects your rights.