How Do Alibis Work?

Whenever a person faces criminal charges, he or she may rely on the trial process, witness statements, and provided evidence to establish his or her innocence. An alibi can provide a much speedier and more secure resolution, but it’s vital to know what elements comprise a solid alibi and understand how alibis work in the trial process.

Most people are familiar with the term “alibi” thanks to movies and television, but it’s important to understand how this concept functions in reality. When a person faces criminal charges, an alibi is any evidence that proves the individual’s innocence. This could include records or witness statements of the suspect’s presence elsewhere at the time the incident in question took place. Bank statements, purchase receipts, phone logs, text messaging logs, security footage, and vehicle GPS data are a few examples of some of the evidence the prosecution may investigate to establish the truth of an alibi.


A defendant in a criminal case may offer an alibi without having to worry about assuming the burden of proving it is true. The burden of proof continues to rest on the prosecution, who will investigate the alibi to disprove it, or rely on other evidence to discredit the defendant. For example, a defendant may claim an alibi without evidence, but if the prosecution fails to disprove it, they may remind the jury that the defendant was convicted for the same crime in the past, and the jury will probably want to see evidence that the defendant’s alibi holds up.

It’s also important to note that establishing an alibi is not equivalent to waiving one’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. A defendant can offer an alibi and yet refuse to testify. Doing so would not look good in front of a jury, but it is an option. All a defendant needs to do in this situation is rely on other evidence or testimony that proves he or she was not responsible for the charges in question. This rarely happens in reality, but it is a possibility. It’s up to the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt. The defendant does not have to prove he or she is innocent.


In the American justice system, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” simply means that the evidence proves a charge is true without leaving any room to doubt the validity of the evidence. The burden of proof for establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt rests with the prosecution. Similarly, a defendant may refuse to testify or present any witnesses and argue that the prosecutor failed to argue his or her side of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. This may not be the wisest course of action when facing criminal charges, but it is possible.

Anyone charged with any type of criminal offense should speak with a reliable defense attorney as soon as possible. A defense attorney will help establish an alibi and represent the defendant’s interests in court.