Have you ever heard that people’s memories change over time? It’s true. You probably think that every memory you have is accurate, assuming that the only problem is when you can’t remember something at all. The science tells us that some of your memories are probably false, though, no matter how real they seem.
There are a lot of reasons for this, but much of it has to do with outside information. It can taint the memories that you have. As you bring them up and recall them, this information can get filtered in and change that memory.
This is very important for criminal cases. For instance, maybe an eyewitness thought that they saw a person at the crime scene, but it was too dark to make out their hair color. Then a news report says that the person’s hair appears to be blonde in video footage. When that eyewitness starts to think back over the events, they may become convinced that they remember seeing blonde hair, as well.
What this means is that a witness with a distorted memory can still strongly believe that they are telling the truth. “Just because somebody tells you something, and they say it with a lot of detail and a lot of confidence and a lot of emotion, doesn’t mean it really happened,” said one psychologist.
If you are facing criminal charges, you need to understand the role that witnesses play and why they could give an inaccurate account of what actually happened. You also need to know what criminal defense options you have at your disposal.