Fresno Criminal Lawyer Discusses Lay Opinions

Aug 24, 2016

If you watch courtroom dramas on television or in movies, you probably remember a time when a lawyer yelled objection because a witness stated an opinion and not a fact. People who are not expert witnesses must generally only talk about what they observed and cannot provide their thoughts. However, the lay opinion rule allows witnesses to give their viewpoints for certain reasons.
When giving their perspectives, a lay witness can talk about his or her:
  • Rational inferences
  • Opinions that explain the testimony one is giving
  • Thought process that determined a fact in question
A witness might also provide information about one's demeanor, identity, sanity, level of sobriety, handwriting, health and more.
Of course, all of this would be a witness's opinion and not fact. The prosecution and defense might have witnesses with different perspectives on the same matter. Speculating on one's sobriety or sanity does not mean the witness knows for sure, and the witness's testimony cannot have a basis in technical or scientific knowledge.
While not all cases go to trial, anyone accused of a crime may need to prepare for a court case. A criminal lawyer could evaluate witnesses to prepare for a trial. To impeach a lay opinion, one could challenge a witness's credibility. An attorney might want to show that a witness for the prosecution is biased or not generally an honest person. If statements the witness made are contradictory, this could be pointed out too.
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Category: Criminal Cases

Michael Mitchell


Michael Mitchell is a Fresno attorney who practices in the areas of DUI, personal injury & criminal law. Visit his Google+ profile.