Studies have found that eyewitnesses have a tendency to make mistakes after violent crimes. They give accounts of the event that don’t reflect what really happened. They think that they remember things correctly when they have forgotten crucial details or gotten things wrong. They make mistakes that put innocent people behind bars.
Why does this happen? There are a lot of potential reasons, including:
- Many of these events happen after dark, so it’s hard to accurately see what is happening in low light and with reduced visibility.
- These events tend to happen very quickly, and they’re usually unexpected. Witnesses may not be paying attention or may not realize what they actually saw until later.
- Some people hold biases or racial prejudices that impact their recollections. Others just make mistakes in identification when dealing with suspects that are not of their same race.
- Memories change over time, and memories of surprising and traumatic events may be selective to begin with. People often think of their memories like a video recording, but that’s not how the brain works.
- With weapons crimes, people often get distracted by the weapons themselves. They may look at a gun or a knife and not at the person’s face.
If you find yourself in court facing weapons charges or violent crime charges, a witness who testifies against you may really sway the case. That’s why it is so important to understand that witnesses can and do make mistakes. You don’t want one testimony to lead to a conviction when you know the testimony is flawed or completely false. Make sure you know about all of the criminal defense options you have in a situation like this.