Can I be found guilty based on just one witness with no other evidence? The short answer is, possibly. We never commit to a client or prospective client what might happen with their case. However, we can present to you what might happen in general.
Before we dive into whether you can be found guilty based on one witness with no other evidence, we should look at the types of evidence used in court.
Hearsay is typically not allowed as evidence, so if what a person is saying about you is hearsay, then it won’t be allowed. There are plenty of exceptions to the general hearsay rule. There is also a lot of nuance between this highly technical element of the law.
According to Mirandarights.org, “Hearsay is information about a statement that was made out-of-court by a person other than the witness during courtroom testimony. For example, if a witness takes the stand and says that he or she was told by the defendant’s friend that the defendant committed the crime, this would be classified as hearsay since the witness did not hear the statement from the defendant. If this information is submitted as evidence, it is referred to as hearsay evidence. The Hearsay Rule defines hearsay and allows for exceptions and exemptions from the rule. The Federal Rules of Evidence defines hearsay as a “statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”
A statement may be classified as hearsay if it is:
- an asserted statement;
- made by a declarant out of court;
- is offered to prove that the information asserted is true.
Testimony is considered evidence
There’s a difference between evidence and live testimony. Evidence is considered anything that the state presents that makes it more or less likely that a fact is true, while live testimony in course is considered to be evidence.
According to Wexlaw, “Evidence an item or information proffered to make the existence of a fact more or less probable. Evidence can take the form of testimony, documents, photographs, videos, voice recordings, DNA testing, or other tangible objects. Courts cannot admit all evidence, as evidence must be admissible under that jurisdiction’s rules of evidence (see below) in order to be presented to court. In federal court, evidence is governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence. A court may exclude evidence because it is not relevant, hearsay, or otherwise inadmissible.
Rules of evidence are, as the name indicates, the rules by which a court determines what evidence is admissible at trial. In the U.S., federal courts follow the Federal Rules of Evidence, while state courts generally follow their own rules.”
Does it matter if you’re in front of a judge or jury?
When you’re charged by the state, you’re charged by a prosecuting attorney, not the judge. The judge doesn’t decide what the facts are in a criminal case either. It’s the jury who will listen to testimony and decide whether to acquit or convict a defendant. The judge’s duty is to make sure the law is followed, to rule on evidentiary and other legal issues, and to properly instruct the jury.
If, however, you’re in a bench trial, then the judge will make a decision on whether you are guilty or innocent.
One person’s testimony
You can be charged with a crime based on what one person says. You cannot plan to go to court and tell the judge that it’s a “he said, she said case”. A judge won’t dismiss a case based on this fact alone meaning that, if there is no other reason to dismiss the case, it will likely proceed to trial.
If you’re facing the testimony of a person that is reliable, it’s even more important to have a qualified legal team on your side.
If you’re facing a trial in which there is testimony against you, you need a legal team that is going to prepare your defense. If the state only has one person’s testimony and little to no additional evidence, we’ll need to look at the weight of proof. If it isn’t a clear win, then there’s a chance that your legal team could argue a winning case to the jury. One thing that can be particularly powerful in this case is bringing into question the credibility of the witness.
Your legal team should be able to do this if you’re up front and open about your history with the person and why they might be testifying about you.
Are you in need of legal counsel? Speak with our experienced New Hampshire legal team for assistance in your case. Our free consultation will help set expectations and ensure you understand the road that lies ahead. We’re here to help clients find the most favorable outcome to their case and give them the best representation possible.