Three Types of Witnesses in a Criminal Case

People Having a Deal in the Office In this article, we will unpack what these different witness types are and what role they play in the criminal justice system.

Witnesses play a significant role in criminal cases and can greatly influence the outcome of the case. Lawyers are usually heavily reliant upon witnesses to help create a convincing case for their client, and both sides will pick apart the validity of them during the discovery process. Generally speaking, there are three main types of witnesses used in criminal cases – eyewitnesses, character witnesses, and expert witnesses. In this article, we will unpack what these different witness types are and what role they play in the criminal justice system.


The first type of witness commonly used in a criminal case is an eyewitness. An eyewitness is someone who directly observed the incident occur. While this type of evidence is helpful in that it provides a first-hand account of what happened at the scene of the crime, lawyers are often skeptical of their validity. A criminal attorney in Indianapolis will do their part to scrutinize the evidence and question whether it is manipulated or unreliable. They may argue that external factors such as lighting may interfere with one’s ability to accurately recount what happened or that the time elapsed since the incident occurred may affect one’s memory of it. In addition, humans are inherently biased and this may be reflected in the eyewitness’ testimony. 

Character Witnesses

Another type of witness that is typically used within the criminal system is a character witness. Character witnesses are helpful in that they provide testimony and insight into the defendant’s personality, reputation, and behavior. These types of witnesses may include friends, family members, or colleagues who can attest to the character of the defendant. A criminal defense lawyer will carefully choose a character witness who has positive remarks and experiences with the defendant to further prove that committing the crime would have been out of character for the defendant. While this type of evidence is also subject to scrutiny and bias, it still can play a monumental role in a criminal case.

Expert Witnesses

The final type of witness that is commonly used in criminal cases is expert witnesses. Unlike the other types of witnesses who either saw the incident occur or know the defendant personally, an expert witness testifies solely on the facts of a specific element of the case. Expert witnesses generally include but are not limited to psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, doctors, accident reconstructionists, or forensic scientists. To be an expert witness, the individual must possess education or licensing within the given area of expertise. For this reason, expert testimony generally holds a heavier weight in court and is less scrutinized because it is supported by scientific information and research rather than opinion. 

The Importance of Witnesses

While the aforementioned types of witnesses do not encompass the wide range of witnesses who may be called in to testify, they are some of the most commonly used ones. The importance of witnesses in a criminal defense case should not be undermined as they can greatly influence the outcome of the case and provide insight into whether the defendant may be guilty.

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