After a fight outside of a bar, you get arrested by the police. An eyewitness claims that you started the fight by pulling out a knife and threatening someone else. You’re facing serious charges.

There’s just one problem: The eyewitness is wrong. You were there, but you were simply walking by. You had nothing to do with the crime and just tried to get away from it as quickly as you could. How could they have made such a serious error?

It happens more often than many people realize, and there are a lot of reasons why we now know that eyewitnesses are very unreliable. One of those reasons is that crimes are surprise events. The witness was not planning on witnessing anything and was not prepared to do so.

For instance, perhaps the person was looking down at their phone. They were thinking about an argument they had with a significant other earlier in the day. They were also across the street, with their view partially blocked by a bus.

The whole thing happens in just a few seconds. They have to look up from the screen, stop thinking about their own emotional struggle, let their eyes adjust if it’s dark out and peer around the unexpected obstacle in their way. Clearly, that’s not the best way to observe a fast-moving event that, to them, seems to come out of nowhere. They make mistakes and even recall things inaccurately after the fact.

If you are falsely accused by an eyewitness, these could be some of the reasons why. Be sure you know all of your legal options.