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Is eyewitness testimony reliable?

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2023 | Crimes

Your memory probably feels like a video camera. If someone asks you what you did during the day or what you ate for your last meal, you can think back on those events. You feel like you remember them flawlessly because they happened to you, so your brain recorded the memories.

But this is a mistake. It’s true that digital recording devices and modern technology can make flawless recordings, but people should not assume that the human brain works the same way. It is not like a video camera. The things that people remember may seem very real to them, but they can be entirely inaccurate.

Memories can actually change

For one thing, did you know that memory can change every time you recall it? It’s possible for someone to add in new details.

For example, perhaps someone witnessed a bank robbery. They were very focused on the weapon that was being used, so they didn’t remember the person’s face. Then, they see a news report claiming that the individual had a beard. The next time that they talk about the bank robbery, they “remember” the beard. As they tell the story repeatedly, they become very convinced that the beard itself is part of their memory, even though they never noticed it when the event actually happened. This is part of the reason why inaccurate testimonies happen in most wrongful conviction cases

Defending against criminal allegations

If you’ve been accused of criminal activity, it’s important to remember that even an eyewitness who sounds like they are being honest could still be wrong. Be sure you understand all of the legal options at your disposal.


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