Can I be Convicted on Witness Testimony Alone? 

click for a free consultation

Many times a week, people call our office stating that they were either convicted of or are facing charges that stem from only a single person’s testimony against their own. They will often say things like: “there is no evidence, just one person’s word vs. mine, so it should be thrown out, right?” or “I can’t be convicted without some other physical evidence, right?” While common sense may lead you to believe that or that there should be a higher standard of proof on testimony-only cases, sadly, it isn’t so simple — and the law doesn’t necessarily support that idea. As the Indiana Pattern Jury instructions clearly state, testimony is direct evidence — just like any other evidence. And, as a direct result, it can stand as the only direct evidence to prove guilt. Moreover, having practiced criminal law for quite some time, every attorney in this office sees more and more cases filed on testimony alone — especially victim related offenses (i.e. sex crimes, battery related aggressions, and/or domestic-related cases).  

Nevertheless, in the realm of criminal law, convictions based solely on testimony can raise serious questions about the ethics of that possibility and the reliability and credibility of evidence that should be required when so much is on the line — and rightfully so. It feels like testimony only cases should require a higher standard of proof or should be looked at more closely. Yet, Indiana, like many other jurisdictions, allows convictions to be obtained on testimony, alone, under certain conditions. In this blog, we’ll explore the reasoning and legal basis surrounding convictions relying on testimony alone in Indiana. 

Legal Basis for Convictions Based on Testimony Alone 

In Indiana, it is possible for a person to be convicted based solely on testimony, without any additional, physical evidence corroborating the testimony. Testimony can come from various sources, including eyewitnesses, victims themselves, or the accused. However, to secure a conviction based on testimony alone, the testimony must be sufficiently credible to reach the high burden of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But what does that even mean? What is credible? Who determines what is or isn’t credible?  

Standards of Evidence in Indiana 

Indiana follows the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases. This means that the prosecution must present evidence that convinces the trier of fact (a jury or judge) that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt — a nebulous phrase of art that litigators fight over in every trial. Basically, the evidence must leave you “firmly convinced” and it must be “so convincing” that you’d be willing to act upon in matters of the highest importance. (Told you it was nebulous). For more on the definition of “reasonable doubt” visit here:

Nevertheless, in summary, testimony alone can meet this standard if it is compelling, overall consistent, and free from significant contradictions or inconsistencies. It is up to the jury or judge to weigh these issues in determining if what was just testified to at trial is enough, standing alone, to convict.  

Factors Considered in Evaluating Testimony 

Judges and juries, both, should and must consider various factors when evaluating the credibility of testimony presented in criminal trials. These factors may include: 

  1. Witness Credibility: The credibility of the witness providing the testimony is a crucial factor. The judge or jury should assess the witness’s demeanor and potential biases to determine credibility — do they appear to be truthful or do they have a reason to lie? 
  1. Consistency and Corroboration: Consistent testimony that is corroborated by other evidence, such as other witness statements or related circumstantial evidence, can strengthen a witness’ credibility. 
  1. Expert Testimony: In some cases, expert testimony may be used to support or challenge the credibility of a particular person’s testimony, acutely in cases involving technical or specialized knowledge. 
  1. Cross-Examination: The opportunity for cross-examination allows the defense to challenge the credibility of witnesses and expose any inconsistencies or discrepancies in their testimony. This is often done through exposing bias, prior statements that differ from the witness, and/or impeachment related questions.  

Importance of Due Process and Fair Trials 

While convictions based on testimony alone are permitted in Indiana, it is absolutely imperative to uphold principles of due process and fair trials while recognizing its permissibility. Paramount to the federal and Indiana State Constitutions, respectively, Defendants have the right to a fair and impartial trial, which includes the right to confront witnesses, present a defense, and challenge the evidence against them.  

Effective legal representation is also essential in ensuring that defendants’ rights are protected throughout the entirety of the criminal justice process and proceedings. As the Indiana Pattern Jury Instructions further illustrate, Defendants should not be convicted on speculation or conjecture alone. While inferences can be made, they should be done with caution. Speculation is not inferential — it is effectively guessing as to what happened. That, for obvious reasons, is not and never should be allowed.   


Convictions based on testimony alone are possible in Indiana, provided that the testimony meets the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and is deemed credible by the judge or jury. Understanding the legal requirements and factors involved in evaluating testimony is essential for ensuring fairness and justice in all criminal proceedings.  

While it doesn’t necessarily feel fair that someone should be convicted on words alone, it is important to realize that sometimes that’s all a victim has. While C.S.I. would have you believe that complex evidence is available on every case, that simply isn’t the way things work in real life. Many crimes occur behind closed doors without photos/videos recording it all, nor are there typically non-biased witnesses sitting their taking copious notes while also collecting accompanying and corroborating physical evidence to boot.  

Still, we should all think long and hard before putting someone behind bars just because a single witness says we should. Biasness, motives, and lies still exist and always will — and that should never be taken lightly. It is absolutely imperative that a Defendant hire competent counsel that can attack witness-only cases. As we move forward, it might be time for legislatures or the judiciary to consider a higher level of proof for witness-only cases. Until then, Indiana will continue to allow it under the parameters listed here — rightfully for wrongfully as it may feel.  

Should you or a loved one be facing a criminal case in Indiana. Give the experienced attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC a call today. We are available 24/7/365 at or by phone at 317.870.0019.