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Alibi in criminal case?

Memphis, TN |

At any point in a criminal trial, is a suspect required to give an alibi? Especially if it his alibi seems suspicious and in turn used against him. Can he just "remain silent" throughout the whole case?

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Attorney answers 4


You need to distinguish this a little more. A suspect is someone who is suspected of committing a crime and just being investigated. The police may question this person, but not arrest him and ask for an alibi. Even in this scenario though, a suspect has a right to say nothing and not incriminate himself under the 5th Amendment right to remain silent.

If, as you stated, a point in criminal trial, the only way to get to a trial is to formally charge someone, and that person is then a defendant, and no longer a suspect. A Defendant at trial is never required to produce an alibi, unless he chooses to as his defense.

A defendant at trial always has the right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment, unless he chooses a defense that requires him to provide evidence.

Before submitting any evidence or providing an alibi, I would run it by a criminal defense attorney first, just to be sure. Providing a false or shaky alibi may make him seem even more guilty.


In TN you are only required to disclose alibi upon written request of the State and then only if you intend/may use the defense. You are free to withdraw the defense before trial and the state cannot use it against you. The notice requirement is for the state to he able to interview tour witneses and to have rebuttal witnesses ready. Remember, the defendant saying "i wasn't there" is not alibi but denial.

Claiborne H. Ferguson, Esq. is * Certified as a Specialist in Criminal Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. * Certified as a Specialist in Criminal Trial Advocacy by the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization.


Only by state request or it is being used as a defense.


The law regarding Alibi is found at Rule 12.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. This Rule provides that the State must serve the defendant with a written request to be notified of an intention to offer an alibi defense. This written request by the State is what triggers a defendant’s obligation to give Notice of the same.

If the government does serve such a written request, the defendant is obligated to serve a written Notice of his/her intention to rely on the Alibi defense. This Notice which the defendant must serve on the government, must include the following: (i) the specific place or places at which the defendant claims to have been at the time of the alleged offense; and (ii) the name and address of each alibi witness on whom the defendant intends to rely. Further, this Notice is to be served within ten (10) days of the government’s request.

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