An issue that still arises during trials, especially jury trials, is whether a party can impeach their own witness. Impeaching your own witness means that you are attacking the testimony and/or credibility of a witness that you put on the stand to testify in the case. So, for example, if the State calls a person to testify in a criminal case and then begins trying to discredit the testimony of that witness, this may sometimes draw an objection from the defense that the State is trying to impeach its own witness.
Under old Alabama law, a party could not impeach their own witness. However, when the Alabama Rules of Evidence were adopted, Rule 607 changed the rules so that a party can impeach a witness even if they are the one who put the witness on the stand. Rule 607 states: “The credibility of a witness may be attacked by any party, including the party calling the witness.” In fact, it is not even necessary that the testimony by the witness be a surprise before it is challenged. Burgin v. State, 747 So. 2d 916 (Ala. Crim. App. 1999).
While a party can impeach and challenge the testimony and/or credibility of their own witness, this right is not unlimited and can be restricted if it is abused by a party. Perhaps the most important restriction is that the impeachment of your own witness cannot be used as a trick to get inadmissible evidence admitted into a trial. If the only reason the witness was put on the stand was to impeach the witness with evidence that would otherwise be inadmissible, then the trial court should still exclude that impeachment evidence. Collins v. State, 206 So.3d 682 (Ala.Crim.App. 2015). Whether this restriction applies in a particular case can sometimes be difficult for a trial court to decide.
To discuss whether you should appeal your criminal conviction or civil court judgment, contact our office at (800) 737-3702 Ext. 1 or fill out our online Contact form.
Alabama State Bar rules require the following disclaimer in all attorney advertisements: “No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of services provided by other attorneys.”