Claiming Alibi in Utah Criminal Cases

Stephen Howard — Stone River Law

Real Experience. Real Results.

Claiming Alibi in Utah Criminal Cases

The legal defense of alibi involves evidence that a defendant was not present at the time and place where a crime is alleged to have occurred. Typically, the evidence presented is intended to establish that the defendant was in another place when the crime was committed.

Utah Code 77-14-2 governs certain procedural requirements in cases where a defendant intends to claim alibi in defense of criminal prosecution. Failure to follow these requirements can result in exclusion of critical evidence at trial.

If you are facing criminal prosecution in Utah, choosing the right criminal defense team can be the most important decision you make.

Utah Code 77-14-2 –¬†Alibi – Notice Requirements

When a criminal defendant intends to present witnesses in support of an alibi defense, Utah law requires that notice be given to the prosecution at least 10 days prior to trial. The required notice must provide the prosecuting attorney with specific information identifying the location the defendant claims to have been at the time the alleged crime occurred. The notice also must provide information, to the extent known by the defendant or the defense attorney, including the names and addresses of the witnesses the defendant intends to call at trial to establish the alibi defense.

In certain circumstances, a defendant may be required to provide information to the prosecution only when the prosecution has made a specific request or when the court has ordered disclosure. Utah Code 77-14-2 provides that notice of alibi must be provided to the prosecution regardless of whether or not the prosecution has made a demand or request for the information.

Once the defense has provided the required alibi notice, the prosecution has five days to provide to the defense with the names* and addresses of witnesses that the prosecution intends to call to contradict or disprove the defendant’s alibi evidence.

Continuing Duty to Disclose

Subsection (2) of the statute establishes that both the prosecution and the defense have an ongoing duty to disclose name and address information of any alibi or rebuttal witnesses that either party learns of after the party has made its initial witness information disclosures. The statute states that this disclosure requirement applies to any “additional witnesses which come to the attention of either party.” Courts likely would interpret this as applying only to witnesses which the party actually intends to call at trial.

Consequences of Failing to Give Notice

Subsections (3) and (4) of the statute establish that the court may exclude evidence or witnesses offered at trial by either party to either establish or rebut a defendant’s alibi, if the notice required under the statute has not been given. The use of the term “may” indicates that this exclusion is discretionary with the court rather than mandatory. Subsection (4) further provides that the court may waive the alibi notice requirements if “good cause” is shown.

Defendant’s Right to Testify

Regardless of whether a court chooses to exclude alibi evidence or testimony from witnesses other than the defendant, subsection (3) specifically provides that “the defendant may always testify on his own behalf concerning alibi.” This provision is consistent with the defendant’s constitutional right to choose to remain silent or to testify generally on his own behalf.

Choosing the Right Criminal Defense Attorney

Presenting an alibi defense in a criminal case can be an effective defense strategy under appropriate circumstances. An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate your case and work with you to develop the best defense strategy for the specific facts of your case.

Contact us today to see what the right criminal defense team can do for you.

*Note that the language of Utah Code 77-14-2 subsection (1) only specifically requires the prosecution to provide “addresses” of the witnesses it intends to call whereas the defense is required to provide “names and addresses” of defense alibi witnesses. Courts, however, should interpret the statute as requiring the prosecution to provide both names and addresses of alibi rebuttal witnesses. It is unlikely that the legislature really intended that the prosecution be allowed to keep the names of its witnesses a secret. The omission of the word “names” in referring to the prosecution’s obligation to disclose information is likely just a drafting error. This interpretation is further supported by the inclusion of “names” in subsection (2) of the statute which establishes a continuing duty for both the prosecution and the defense to disclose both the names and addresses of any additional alibi witnesses that come to the attention of either party after the party’s initial alibi witness list is filed.