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How Credibility Matters in Your California Criminal Case


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judge looking at he defendant files to see the reputation

When you are the defendant in a criminal case, you are likely going through a stressful time in your life. You might be facing severe consequences if you are found guilty of a crime and might also be worried about being able to get out on bond ahead of your trial. Your credibility is one of the most important aspects of your criminal case and can greatly impact the outcome of your particular situation. Credibility is essential for you, your witnesses, and your attorney. 

What is Credibility?

When you are involved in a criminal case, credibility matters. The Legal Information Institute defines credibility as “the capacity for being believed; the quality that renders something (testimony, evidence, a witness, etc.) worthy of belief; believability.” In short, you want those who will play a role in the outcome of your case to believe you, your witnesses, and attorney. When you go before a judge or jury, you want to present the most positive appearance possible. You want to try to give a good impression and reduce any negative thoughts the participants might have about you or your case. 

Why First Impressions Matter

If you have criminal charges against you the state will try to prove that you committed a crime. The jury will be provided instructions by the judge to evaluate the case and to determine if you are believable. Some psychologists believe that people form an opinion about someone else within the first 10 seconds of meeting them. Once they form an immediate opinion, it can be difficult to change their perspective. The halo effect is a cognitive bias that a person has about another after meeting them and forming an immediate opinion. For example, when you meet a person who seems friendly and nice, you may automatically make some assumptions, such as assuming that they are a good person or that they are generous. 

Credibility is Important

Credibility has to do with the way you present yourself as well as what you say. You need to make sure that you present yourself in the best light possible. You should take steps to improve your appearance and look clean and neat. Unfortunately, people sometimes form a mental bias against someone who looks unkempt because some people associate some attributes with criminals. In addition to your appearance, you also need to be aware of your body language, especially while you are in the courtroom and in front of the judge and jury. 

Not only does your credibility register with the jury in a case, but it is also a factor that the judge can use when considering your punishment. If you are found guilty, the judge has some discretion to impose a penalty based on the conviction. If the judge does not find you credible and indeed feels that you did not tell the entire truth in your trial, they may decide on a penalty that is on the upper end of the spectrum. Judges do not want to reward defendants who they feel did not have proper respect for the judicial system. 

It is important to seek guidance from an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you throughout your case. Contact our lawyers at Strongest Defense at (805) 477-0070 for a free case evaluation to discuss your case.