Eyewitness Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Eyewitness, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Eyewitness?

n. Someone who observed an event and can testify in court.

History and Meaning of Eyewitness

An eyewitness is someone who has seen an event with their own eyes and can provide a first-hand account of what they saw. As a legal term, an eyewitness is often crucial in cases where there is conflicting evidence, as their testimony can help to provide clarity on what actually occurred. The idea of eyewitness testimony dates back to ancient civilizations such as Rome and Greece, where eyewitnesses were expected to provide evidence in legal cases.

However, it wasn't until the modern legal system emerged that eyewitness testimony became a central part of trials. Today, eyewitnesses are often called to testify in criminal cases, where their testimony can help to corroborate or refute other evidence presented in court.

Examples of Eyewitness

  • In a murder trial, an eyewitness describes seeing the defendant leaving the scene of the crime around the time it occurred.
  • A car accident case relies on eyewitness testimony to recreate the events leading up to the collision, as well as the positions and speeds of the vehicles involved.
  • During a robbery trial, an eyewitness provides a description of the suspect's appearance and any identifying features or evidence, such as a distinctive article of clothing or weapon.
  • In cases of police brutality, eyewitness testimony can be crucial in determining whether excessive force was used and whether the officer acted reasonably.

Legal Terms Similar to Eyewitness

  • Character witness: someone who testifies to the character of the defendant, such as their general reputation or specific incidents of good behavior.
  • Expert witness: someone with specialized knowledge or expertise in a certain area who can provide testimony related to their area of expertise.
  • Hearsay: testimony from someone who did not see an event firsthand, but rather heard about it from someone else. Hearsay is generally not admissible in court, as it is considered less reliable than eyewitness testimony.