A person who has been charged with committing a crime in Texas may present witness testimony and other evidence to uphold their defense. Witnesses are people who answer questions during a trial but who typically do not express their opinions.
The Federal Rules of Evidence allows some individuals to express their opinions about aspects of a criminal case. Courtroom testimony from a non-expert witness expressing an opinion is referred to as a lay opinion. A court will only allow a layperson to express their opinion on certain subject matters, and a layperson is only allowed to testify in court if they are competent.
A competent layperson may tell the court their opinion on the identity of a person, the state of a person’s health and the emotional state of a person. A layperson could also be asked to identify handwriting or estimate how fast a vehicle was traveling. In some cases, a layperson may provide their opinion about whether another person is sane or whether another person was intoxicated at a specific time. Such opinion testimony may be used toward the trial decision.
Testimony from a layperson could be used as part of a defendant’s criminal defense strategy. For example, a defendant could ask a competent layperson to provide their opinion about a witness that is presenting testimony for the prosecution. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help a defendant to gather a collection of evidence for their defense including lay opinions, expert testimony, witness testimony and physical evidence.