Inaccurate witnesses and faulty memories

In most cases, witnesses to a crime have no reason to get the facts wrong. They have nothing to gain. They try to give an accurate account, identify the right people and give the court what it needs to determine guilt or innocence.

So, why do they get it wrong so often?

One reason is that people think their memory is photographic and perfect. If they can clearly remember something, they believe it's accurate. They think they have the facts right.

They may not. Memories are typically not perfect. They're far from it. They can change over time. They can be influenced by outside factors.

For instance, people often combine multiple memories into one. Say you went on a hike by yourself and then did the same hike with a friend. On one of those days, it was raining. When you tell the story later, you note that it rained on you and your friend, but your friend is confused. They insist it was sunny. That's when you realize you combined both hikes and thought that events that happened on the lone hike happened when you were together.

It's an honest mistake, but it's a problem in court. Witnesses identify innocent people, they get their facts wrong, they say things happened at times and dates when they did not happen and they make all sorts of mistakes. It can have a big impact on a case.

If you're facing charges for any alleged crime, you need to know how this works and what legal options you have during the case.

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