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Beliefs about alibis and alibi investigations: a survey of law enforcement

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To date, the majority of published research on alibis has focused on jurors' perceptions of alibi believability. However in criminal cases, it is often law enforcement officers and prosecutors who make decisions about alibi believability that are critical to whether an individual will be charged with a crime. In the current survey, senior law enforcement personnel were questioned about their opinions and experiences regarding alibi investigations and stories. Respondents consistently reported that ‘time’ is a critical element related to the believability of an alibi story. Specifically, the sooner an alibi story can be investigated, the greater the likelihood that the alibi story will be useful in determining whether the suspect was involved in the crime. In addition, consistent with prior research (Olson & Wells, 2004), participants indicated that the most believable alibi stories are those that include physical evidence or a statement from an unmotivated other. However, respondents reported that suspects provide leads to physical evidence in only 20% of cases, and that unmotivated strangers lie to police in 12% of cases. Overall, the results of the survey show that law enforcement officers are skeptical of alibi statements.
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Keywords: adult witnesses; credibility; law enforcement officers; testimony; witness evidence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology,John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, USA

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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