When Can Accomplice Testify Against You?

Posted On: January 23rd, 2021 by Bradley J. Groene
Witness swearing on bible

If someone is on the witness stand claiming to be your accomplice to a crime, it could be very damaging. By working with a lawyer, you could try to prevent them from testifying, but that is hard to do in most cases. In these situations, the best a criminal defense lawyer can do is attack their credibility and highlight flaws in the evidence so a judge or jury won’t give the testimony any weight.

As a highly experienced and successful Cincinnati defense attorney, Brad Groene has seen this situation many times. If you’re facing charges and believe accomplice testimony may complicate your case, reach out to Luftman, Heck & Associates for a free, confidential consultation. Call (513) 338-1890 or contact us online 24/7.

Accomplice Testimony in Ohio

Under Ohio law (ORC 2923.03(A)), an accomplice is someone who:

  • Asks or convinces another to commit the offense
  • Helps another commit the offense
  • Works with another to commit the offense
  • Causes an innocent or incapable person to commit the offense

Accomplice testimony usually comes up if a person is cooperating as part of a plea agreement. If they testify against you, they will get reduced, or zero, consequences. This increases the chances they’re lying, making the testimony hard to accept.

Challenging Prosecution Witnesses

Prosecutors are generally given liberty when calling witnesses. Their testimony must be relevant to the case, and they need to have personal knowledge of the issues.

Under the Rules of Evidence, a proposed witness could be kept off the stand if they are not capable of:

  • Expressing themselves concerning the matter and being understood
  • Understanding their duty to tell the truth

A witness also can’t testify if they have an “unsound mind,” according to state law. Generally, if a person passes these tests, they can testify, but we will challenge what they say.

Can Accomplices Be Compelled to Testify?

Someone the prosecution believes to be your accomplice could be forced to testify. The witness can use the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protections to refuse to answer any questions that may incriminate them. This may severely limit what the witness says and the harm it could do to you.

During a trial, the prosecution would ask their questions through direct examination. This is followed by cross-examination by your attorney.

This is your lawyer’s chance to impeach their testimony or make the judge or jury doubt what was said.

For example, your defense lawyer could bring up:

  • Their bias against you (including their cooperation with the prosecution)
  • Prior inconsistent statements
  • Their reputation for not being truthful
  • Specific instances that would show they haven’t told the truth in the past
  • Certain crimes they committed in the past
  • Their ability to observe, remember, or relate what they discussed is defective
  • They didn’t have the chance to hear or see what they claimed

As part of your defense, you could also call witnesses to discredit what the alleged accomplice said.

What if the Accomplice Lies?

There is no general ban against an alleged accomplice testifying against you. Ohio statute (ORC 2923.03(D)) states that if a judge allows the person to testify, the jury must be given instructions warning them of potential issues:

“The testimony of an accomplice does not become inadmissible because of his complicity, moral turpitude, or self-interest, but the admitted or claimed complicity of a witness may affect his credibility and make his testimony subject to grave suspicion and require that it be weighed with great caution.

“It is for you, as jurors, in the light of all the facts presented to you from the witness stand, to evaluate such testimony and to determine its quality and worth or its lack of quality and worth.”

The purpose of this is to warn juries the testimony may be a self-serving way to shift blame onto you.

Their Testimony Won’t Be a Surprise

You and your lawyer will know before the trial if the prosecution will call your alleged accomplice to testify. If there are sufficient grounds, we will try to prevent them from testifying. If the judge disagrees, we will prepare to impeach their testimony during the trial through our research and investigation. Because of our considerable experience with trials, attorney Groene can effectively expose dishonest witnesses trying to help convict you.

Contact a Cincinnati Defense Attorney at LHA

At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we fight for our clients every step of the way. Whether we’re working to prevent criminal charges from being filed or impeaching prosecution witnesses at trial, attorney Brad Groene understands how the result will impact your life. It’s a heavy responsibility, and we earn our clients’ trust every day.

Need help with criminal charges in or around Cincinnati? Call LHA at (513) 338-1890 for a free and confidential consultation 24/7.