Chapter 4 - §1. Overview

JurisdictionUnited States

§1. Overview

The impeachment or rehabilitation of a witness is an attempt by a party to attack (impeach) or support (rehabilitate or bolster) a witness's credibility. See Impeachment & Rehabilitation, Blacks Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019); 3 Witkin, California Evidence (5th ed.), Presentation at Trial §§270, 371. The term "credibility" refers to the believability of a witness or, more specifically, the believability of her testimony in a particular trial. See Credibility, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). The trier of fact is the sole judge of a witness's credibility and is permitted to believe all, part, or none of the witness's testimony. See Moran v. Foster Wheeler Energy Corp. (2d Dist.2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 500, 518 (jury has duty to assess witness credibility and can reject even uncontroverted testimony if it has reasonable grounds to determine testimony is not credible); CALCRIM 105 (Witnesses).

§1.1. Parties that can impeach or rehabilitate. A witness's credibility can be attacked or supported by any party. Evid. C. §785. For impeachment, this includes the party who called the witness. Id.; People v. Burney (2009) 47 Cal.4th 203, 248; People v. Mayfield (1997) 14 Cal.4th 668, 751, overruled on other grounds, People v. Scott (2015) 61 Cal.4th 363. For rehabilitation, this includes the noncalling party. See Evid. C. §785.

Federal Comparison

The FREs similarly provide that a witness's credibility can be attacked by any party, including the party calling the witness. FRE 607.

§1.2. Who can be impeached or rehabilitated.

1. Testifying witness. Generally, the credibility of any witness who testifies can be attacked or supported. See Evid. C. §785. This includes a defendant who testifies, an expert witness, and a witness who takes the stand to impeach or rehabilitate another witness. See People v. Hopson (2017) 3 Cal.5th 424, 443; see, e.g., People v. Gutierrez (2002) 28 Cal.4th 1083, 1139 (by taking stand, D was subject to impeachment as any other witness); People v. Madison (1935) 3 Cal.2d 668, 678 (prosecutor impeached his own impeaching witness). See "Cross-examination of expert witness," ch. 2, §11.2.3.

2. Nontestifying witness. When a hearsay statement is admitted in a criminal proceeding and the declarant does not testify at that proceeding, a party may attack or support the declarant's credibility through any evidence that would have been admissible for that purpose if the declarant had actually testified. Evid. C. §1202; see People v....

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