Strengths and Weaknesses of Alibi Defenses in Florida

Strengths and Weaknesses of Alibi Defenses in Florida

Strengths and Weaknesses of Alibi Defenses in Florida


While depicted as a triumphant moment in many movies, the successful use of an alibi defense in Florida is much more complicated and requires knowledge of the rules and procedures necessary to use it. Depending on the charges you are facing and the evidence you have to prove your alibi, you may help or hurt your criminal case in the process. This type of defense will also require an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer to advise you on whether using this approach to prove your innocence is ideal for your situation.

What Does an Alibi Defense Entail?

When a defendant raises an alibi defense, the court will instruct the jury to find a verdict of not guilty if they have a reasonable doubt the defendant was not present at the crime scene. These instructions only apply in cases where their presence at the crime scene is at issue. An example of this situation would be if the prosecution claims the accused assaulted another person, and the defendant has witness testimony or security footage showing they were somewhere else at the time of the attack. An alibi defense would be appropriate in this situation.

If this attack occurred at a music festival in front of twenty eyewitnesses, and the accused did in fact attend that festival, but claim they didn’t commit the assault, then the viability of an alibi defense is unlikely.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Alibi Defenses in Florida

The purpose of an alibi defense is to create reasonable doubt. The strength or weakness of this defense will rest on the accuracy of the defendant’s account of their whereabouts when the alleged crime occurred. Any inaccuracies will provide an opportunity for the prosecution to pounce and dismantle the alibi with expert testimony, interviews, and subpoenaed evidence.

Other ways an alibi can be weakened would be if a jailed defendant speaks about their case to anyone but their attorney, especially over the phone with relatives. These calls are not private, and anything said could be used against the accused.

Alibis do have several strengths that benefit those innocent of commiting crimes that the state claims occurred. A successful alibi can not only clear you of these allegations but also clear your name of any doubt. Using this defense can sometimes lead Florida prosecutors to drop the charges altogether after receiving discovery and seeing all of the evidence supporting your alibi.

Below are additional aspects of Florida alibi defenses that can help or hurt your criminal case:

Principals to a Crime Cannot Use an Alibi Defense in Florida

When accused of a crime, it is critical to know if prosecutors are charging you as a principal. Florida State Statute 777.011 makes it possible for you to be charged for the same criminal acts of another person if you aided in the committal of the crime. Two primary conditions must be met for this to apply:

  • You intended for the crime to occur, and
  • You either spoke or acted in a way that encouraged, caused, advised, or assisted the other person(s) to commit the criminal act.

As you can see, you do not have to be present when the crime occurred. Defendants in this situation cannot use an alibi defense.

Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure Are Strict

Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.200 requires the defense to file a Notice of Alibi 10 days before the trial or by a date designated by the judge. This filing must contain the following details of your alibi and witnesses:

  • Your location at the time of the alleged crime, and
  • All witness names and addresses who you intend to call to prove your alibi.

Typically, the state will file a list with the names and addresses of all those they intend to call as rebuttal witnesses. Your attorney should receive this filing five days after you serve the Notice of Alibi on the state.

If either party fails to disclose all the witnesses they intend to call under this rule, the court may decide to exclude their testimony and/or any evidence they provide.

Proving an Alibi May Be Difficult

Proving an alibi is not always a straightforward affair, especially in circumstances when a defendant was alone and has no eyewitness testimony to support their claim. Proving you were not at the scene of a crime may require more in-depth investigation, like home security footage showing you in your yard mowing the grass at the time of the crime. Regardless, if an alibi is overly difficult to substantiate, your Florida criminal defense attorney may opt to take a different approach to establish your lack of guilt.

Alibi Defenses Require a Thorough and Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Besides the strict nature of Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, presenting an alibi defense requires thorough planning and preparation. Many defenses do not stand up in court because they are partial and do not completely account for a defendant’s whereabouts at the actual time of the offense.

Having eyewitness testimony on its own may not be enough, and it is critical to use evidence in establishing an alibi. Many forms of evidence can help you prove where you were when the offense occurred, including:

  • Text messages
  • Surveillance videos
  • Time-stamped documentation
  • Phone records
  • GPS and/or cell phone tracker apps

Getting access to this information may prove complicated, which makes services from an experienced criminal defense attorney invaluable as they regularly request these types of records and understand how the courts view this data.

Rely on the Legal Expertise of the Umansky Law Firm

The Orlando criminal defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm have over 100 years of combined experience and can help establish a formidable alibi with our extensive knowledge of state law. As former Florida prosecutors at the state and local level, we have an inside understanding of how alibi defenses can succeed at trial.

Don’t jeopardize your defense by assuming you can claim an alibi without foreplaning and aggressive representation. Work with our legal team to start building your defense now so you can get the second chance you deserve. To arrange your free consultation with one of our attorneys, call or contact us online 24/7.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Alibi Defenses in Florida