If you were somewhere else, then you don't have to die.'"
Often, when someone is suspected of a crime, they can prove they were somewhere else at the time, or otherwise physically incapable of committing the crime. This is called an "alibi." It's a common plot element in the mystery and crime genres, but sometimes pops up elsewhere.
Note, however that the term "alibi" is sometimes misused. First, an alibi is rebuttable evidence that the person suspected of a crime requiring them to be where the crime took place was not there. It is rebuttable, which is a technical term meaning the prosecution can show it's not valid, is wrong or is faked. Second, unless the evidence is showing you were someplace other than where the crime was committed, and the crime requires you to be there during its commission, the evidence is not an alibi. Catherine Trammel's books describing how she'd murder people in Basic Instinct are not an alibi; despite the (reasonable) argument that she'd have to be really stupid to murder someone in exactly the way her books describe and her lawyers could easily attribute it to a Loony Fan, they do not prove that she was somewhere else when the murders took place.
For some evidence to be an alibi, it must either show you could not have committed the crime and/or show that you were nowhere near where the crime took place (if the crime requires you to be there at the time). A witness stating you were in Chicago at the time someone was stabbed in Los Angeles is a reasonable alibi. A traffic ticket you signed while you were in Chicago when the murder happened is a great alibi. A televised speech you delivered in Chicago at the exact time of the murder is pretty much airtight. But again, it's rebuttable if the prosecution can show there is enough time for you to commit the crime and still get to Chicago, or someone's lying.
An alibi showing you're somewhere else doesn't help if you don't have to be at the scene of the crime. If you built and/or mailed someone a bomb (knowing it was one) and it blew up, killing them, it doesn't matter what evidence you have to prove incontrovertibly that you weren't there when the bomb went off. No alibi is going to be available, because you don't have to be there to commit the crime, thus proving you weren't there when the bomb went off does nothing to prove that you didn't make the bomb and that you didn't mail it.
The only way that an alibi would work in the above example is if it can show it was impossible for you to construct a bomb and mail it or have it mailed, and that you could not have mailed a bomb that someone else made. Any other evidence is not an alibi.
A common use in fiction is for a Wrongly Accused person to have an alibi, but the one person who could prove it is missing, or for some reason denying the truth. Another is for the alibi to be inherently unverifiable - being at home in bed is a perfectly reasonable and often true explanation of one's whereabouts at the time of a crime committed in the middle of the night, but it's hard to prove, especially if the suspect lives alone - which can cause the authorities to assume that the suspect just made it up and was actually out committing the crime.
Alternately, a suspect may have a false alibi, and it's up to the protagonist detective/police to break the alibi. Readers and viewers familiar with the mystery genre may immediately suspect the one person in a mystery whose alibi is too airtight. Alibi accounts for the "opportunity" aspect of a crime. A character who is found to have the remaining two (means and motive) will usually have his alibi scrutinized by the investigators.
Another use of the alibi in fiction is for the suspect's alibi to be that they were committing another crime at the time (traditionally adultery) and thus being unusable. Conversely, especially in short fiction from the viewpoint of the perpetrator, the ironclad false alibi they set up makes them the number one suspect in a completely different crime.
It's worth noting that in many jurisdictions, the use of an alibi defense requires the defense to notify the prosecution of the alibi ahead of the trial so that the evidence can be investigated before the trial begins. (This can save the time and expense of a wrongful trial.)
Contrast Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story, in which the point is to make it impossible to check whether a person was where they claim to have been; and Leave No Witnesses, which tries to prevent anyone from being able to say they saw you at the scene of the crime. Supertrope of Varying Competency Alibi, where a suspect is viewed as either incapable of committing a crime, or incapable of committing it that badly.
- In the Ace Attorney manga's Turnabout Gallows case, the entire crux of the case revolves around the fact that everyone but the defendant has a completely impenetrable rock solid alibi: At the exact time of the victim's instantaneous death, everyone who could have possibly committed the murder besides the defendant was right there in front of Phoenix. This seemingly cast iron fact is about to get Phoenix's client a guilty verdict. That's when Phoenix quite literally turns the entire case upside down to work out and prove how the real killer managed to cause the victim's death without actually being anywhere near him.
- One episode of Detective School Q had a killer try to use some of the main characters as her alibi: She talked with them on the train, then got off the train, drove to the location of her victim, killed him, and then drove to a later train station (the tracks took a big arc, so it was possible for someone with a fast car taking a direct route from the station at the start of the arc to the station at the end of it to beat the train there), then talk to the main characters again, presenting the illusion that she'd been on the train the entire time. It didn't work.
- Lupin III:
- Lupin III: Part 1, in the pilot episode, had Lupin racing in a Formula 1 car, with Inspector Zenigata chasing behind him. While he's just out of sight, he switches places with Jigen, who is driving an identical car. When the nearby hotel explodes and Zenigata attempts to blame Lupin, Lupin points out that Zenigata is his alibi: proof that Lupin couldn't be responsible for the crime.
- Lupin III: Part II second episode, "Guns, Bun, and Fun in the Sun", has Lupin (along with Jigen and Goemon) arrested for drunk driving. They set up a projector to show the three still in jail as they escape and pull off the episode's heist. It would've worked, except Inspector Zenigata was too suspicious and checked out their cell personally.
- Maria no Danzai: When Kumiru finds her gym clothes in Kinugawa's bag, she accuses him of having stolen them during chemistry class, since he was late for that period. Kinugawa retorts that he was at the toilet at the time, so Kumiru asks if anyone can verify that claim; cue Maria validating Kinugawa's claim by clarifying that he was actually with her at the time, and therefore couldn't have stolen Kumiru's gym clothes. What neither Kumiru or Kinugawa know is that it was Maria who took Kumiru's clothes and put them in Kinugawa's bag, and that she deliberately made Kinugawa late by talking to him on the way to class so that he would have an airtight alibi when Kumiru inevitably accused him; all of this in an effort to make it look like Kumiru was trying to frame him up, as she had done to others countless times before.
- One EC Comics story had a man meet a stranger on a deserted road miles away from the location of the crime he was later accused of. Because of the heinousness of the crime, the trial was brought quickly, and the execution scheduled within two months. All the time, the accused man's pleas for the witness to step forward went unmet. Finally, we learn who the alibi witness was. It was the state executioner, who had an extended leave of absence after the stress of his job caused him to have a nervous breakdown, and had not seen a newspaper or listened to the news in months. Let's hope he never found out the truth...
- Identity Crisis (2004): Many readers figured out who the killer was in the first issue, because even though that person wasn't listed as a suspect at all, the story went out of its way to provide them an alibi.
- The Punisher MAX: In The Cell, Frank kills a black inmate and carves a swastika on his face, planting the warden Leonard's nametag on the corpse. When the warden shows up to investigate the murder, he immediately realizes his dilemma: he physically wasn't there that night... because he was having sex with a neo-Nazi inmate.
- In Another Thin Man Lois is with Nick and Nora when the Colonel's shot goes off, so she is believed to be innocent. It is revealed that with her hoodlum boyfriend Phil's help she set up an elaborate timing mechanism in which she first killed her father, and then rigged the gun to go off five minutes later, after she'd left.
- Bangkok Haunted: A Cowboy Cop is investigating a supposed suicide that his chief has told him to drop. The husband turns out, after being shot dead in an altercation, to have lost the use of his legs, making him incapable of accessing the crime scene. The woman's lover, after the cop kills him and makes it look like a shoot-out, is revealed after the fact to have been committing another crime (on camera!) at the time. It actually was suicide that only coincidentally looked like murder. The woman's ghost was manipulating the cop (her secret second lover) into taking her revenge on the men who'd wronged her, including himself as he is arrested for murdering the other two.
- In Hangmen Also Die!, the hospital provides a fake one for Dr. Svoboda to prove that he couldn't have killed Heydrich: he was at a cholecystectomy all day.
- In the Tom Selleck film Her Alibi Selleck plays a man who goes along with a woman pretending to be her alibi proving she couldn't have committed the murder she has been accused of. He starts having doubts after a while.
- How To Blow Up A Pipeline: The group devise these so the authorities can't prove they destroyed the pipeline aside from Xochitl and Theo, who take the fall. It's left ambiguous whether their alibis will hold up to scrutiny.
- Legally Blonde has the case where the accused has a solid alibi, but revealing it would lead to ruin just as surely as a guilty verdict. She's a famous fitness instructor, and was out getting liposuction at the time of the murder.
- The Mad Miss Manton: Melsa Manton and her gal pals try to find out if Edward Norris and his friend Frances' alibi of being at a hockey game, and therefore unable to commit the murders, is true. They find out that he couldn't have killed old man Lane because that would've meant going across town and back in the small amount of ten minutes.
- Augie from Once Upon a Crime tells the police detective that he was with his wife in their hotel room when the murder took place. The detective then tells him that a witness saw a man leave his room and climb down the fire escape. Augie claims that the man was himself and the detective asks him to recreate this feat. So, he does. Then the detective asks him what he thinks the man did and has him recreate those feats as well. After performing those feats, Augie asks if that matches the witness's account. The detective confirms that it did and also puts him at the scene of the crime.
- In Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Pee-Wee knows that his neighbor Francis stole his bike because Francis wanted it so badly. But Francis turns out to have a rock-solid alibi - he was home with his father all day at the time of the theft, assembling the train set he got for his birthday. Naturally, Francis hired someone else to do the thieving, but his father doesn't know that and insists on his son's innocence.
- The Plan in Vabank depended on giving Kramer a really good alibi (with juicy little details, like Natalie's supposed neighbour greeting him as he leaves "her" apartment) - only to mop everything up later and pretend it never happened.
- Played Straight in Whirlpool until we find out the truth. Korvo used hypnosis on himself to commit the murder while recovering from a gallbladder surgery.
- Larry Niven's The Alibi Machine: What happens to police investigations when quick and easy teleportation makes it possible to hop across the country and back in the same time it takes to step out to use the washroom? Suddenly there's no such thing as an alibi anymore.
- In many of Freeman Wills Crofts' detective novels, the detective has to disprove what appears to be an unimpeachable alibi. As Dorothy L. Sayers remarked, eventually the reader begins to suspect the person with the best alibi straight away. For example, in Mystery in the Channel, one suspect is ruled out of consideration because his launch couldn't have reached the scene of the crime at its maximum speed. He'd fitted an outboard motor to the launch, which he then threw overboard before the police examined the boat. Crofts eventually subverted this facet of his writing in Death on the Way. Inspector French proves that a suspect faked his alibi, and arrests him — but it turns out he wasn't the murderer, and faked the alibi because he knew he couldn't prove his innocence.
- In "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge", a man is murdered at an hour where his guest claims he was at home. Turns out the man was intending to commit a crime himself, and the clocks were set wrong so that said extremely respectable guest could provide an alibi.
- In Diagnosis: Murder book "The Silent Partner", Mark Sloan insists that Serial Killer Tyler Cootes, couldn't have murdered Jerry Ridling, one of his supposed victims, because he had an alibi. It should be noted that he isn't denying Cootes' guilt for any of the other murders, just that this one was a copycat crime.
- In Night Watch, at the time that Lord Winder is scheduled to die, one conspirator assures another that Snapcase, an obvious suspect, is "dining quietly but visibly in impeccable company on the other side of town".
- The Thieves Guild Diary gives a list of approved alibis, one of which is "I was committing another crime for which I have already given an alibi".
- In The Hunting of the Snark, the Barrister dreams that the Snark is defending a pig against the charge of deserting its sty. The Snark argues that the pig has proved an alibi: in other words, the pig didn't leave the sty empty because it wasn't there at the time.
- In the Alan Handley novel, Kiss Your Elbow, actor protagonist Tim Briscoe finds his agent murdered. One of the most obvious suspects is the actress who had the appointment immediately before his. He drops the suspicion, however, when it turns out she missed the appointment because she drunkenly trapped herself in the bathroom for the last four hours. This turns out to have been true, a good thing for Tim because he's not a good detective.
- In Last Sacrifice, when Rose is framed for regicide, Adrian provides her with an alibi as they spend the night of the murder together. His mother Daniella Ivashkov then goes to provide him with his own alibi. Bribing a janitor to testify that Adrian arrived in Rose's apartment later than he actually did. So they could not have done the deed together. Problem was that the second alibi was not needed, only complicating things more.
- Lord Peter Wimsey
- The novel Have His Carcase has an interesting example. Lord Peter is suspicious of one of the other characters because he seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to arrange an ironclad alibi... for a time several hours before the murder. It turns out that: the alibi is faked, the murder took place several hours earlier than he thought, and the character actually is the murderer.
- To make things even more interesting, the suspect also has a completely ironclad alibi for the actual time of the murder... or rather, as noted above, what Lord Peter thinks is the actual time of the murder. This alibi is entirely genuine, and, ironically enough, was established by complete coincidence.
- The short story "Absolutely Elsewhere" also hinges on disproving an alibi, with Lord Peter snarkily observing that nobody has a perfect alibi (is absolutely elsewhere) unless getting to the scene of the crime would have violated Special Relativity. It turns out to not be quite that complicated.
- The novel Have His Carcase has an interesting example. Lord Peter is suspicious of one of the other characters because he seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to arrange an ironclad alibi... for a time several hours before the murder. It turns out that: the alibi is faked, the murder took place several hours earlier than he thought, and the character actually is the murderer.
- This backfires badly in Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence. As he would be an obvious suspect, the murderer arranges for an accomplice to commit the crime while he hitches a lift with Dr Arthur Calgary, a stranger who has no connection with him and thus no reason to lie about his whereabouts. Unfortunately, Dr Calgary loses his memory in an accident shortly afterwards, and the murderer ends up getting hanged anyway (the book takes place after this when Calgary regains his memory and seeks to clear the name of a man he assumes was innocent).
- The Thinking Machine: In "His Perfect Alibi", a murder is committed and every single piece of evidence—including a dying declaration by the victim—points to one man. However, that suspect has the seemingly airtight alibi of having been in a dentist chair having a tooth extracted at the time of the murder. It is up to Van Dusen to work out how someone could seemingly be in two places at same time.
- One of the Urth mysteries by Isaac Asimov was centered around breaking an alibi that was already unverifiable. The suspect had a well-known habit of going into total seclusion for a month every year, so the lack of witnesses and evidence as to his whereabouts that month wouldn't be considered suspicious by the jury, they'd be considered expected. Urth is called in to prove that the suspect had, instead of being in seclusion on his estate, actually been on the moon.
- Given that Under Suspicion revolves around journalists investigating cold cases, the team often comb over the alibis of the suspects and try to determine if there are any holes in their stories, or if they can verify an alibi to whittle down the suspect pool.
- In I've Got You Under My Skin, none of the suspects in the murder of Betsy Powell have strong alibis. The night of the Graduation Gala, Nina, Alison and Regina slept over at the Powell mansion, so they would've had just as much opportunity to kill Betsy as her husband, her daughter and the live-in housekeeper. All six of them say they were asleep in their own rooms all night, but consequently no one else can confirm this. Nina and Alison aren't even certain if they did stay in their rooms, as Nina got so drunk she has holes in her memory of that night, while Alison recalls she was sleepwalking. Family friend George Curtis says he went back to his own house after the gala, but it's noted that his house is in walking distance of the Powell mansion, and he did in fact slip back to the mansion that night.
- The Cinderella Murder:
- Frank Parker has a seemingly iron-clad alibi for Susan Dempsey's murder; he had arranged to meet Susan at his house at 7.30pm, at 7.45 he called Susan's room at UCLA to see where she was and spoke with her roommate Madison, at 8.30 Madison turned up at his house to audition, they ordered pizza at around 9.30 and Madison left just before 12am. The autopsy estimated that Susan died sometime between 7pm and 11pm and her body was found ten minutes away from Frank's home (or five minutes away if she was running). As it takes at least thirty minutes to get from the UCLA campus to the Hollywood Hills (not accounting for L.A. evening traffic), it's thought that Frank wouldn't have had enough time to chase and kill Susan in Laurel Canyon Park, call Madison, drive Susan's car back to the campus and be back at his house to meet Madison... unless he and Madison are both lying about the timeline.
- Madison's alibi is that she was at her apartment on-campus when Frank called her at 7.45pm, she got to his house at 8.30 and stayed until midnight. Her version of the timeline matches Frank's exactly, although it is pointed out it's odd Madison was dressed and ready to go the moment she got Frank's call if she was having a night in, especially as she's known to take ages to pretty herself up.
- Keith says that he was at an Advocates for God meeting at a bookstore across town when Susan was killed and that he has six people who can vouch for him. However, considering how insular Advocates for God is, some people wonder if the other church members could've lied about how long Keith was at the meeting to cover for him. Keith counters that if he'd been at any other kind of meeting, no one would question it.
- Nicole says that on the evening of May 7th she went out to a local student bar and stayed there drinking all night, with there being several witnesses. However, there is an unaccounted window of time from when Nicole argued with Susan at their apartment to when Nicole arrived at the bar.
- Susan's agent Edwin Lange, who had arranged her audition with Frank Parker and was originally supposed to accompany her, isn't available for interview as he died several years ago. Although it means one less person on camera, the team don't consider this hugely detrimental as Edwin was never a suspect; he had been driving to Arizona to visit his sick mother at the time of Susan's murder, with calls made from his mobile phone confirming his location, and he was genuinely shocked to learn Susan had been killed.
- A complication in All Dressed in White is that virtually none of the wedding party have solid alibis for Amanda's disappearance (save her parents, who didn't arrive at the resort until the following morning); after the wedding party had dinner in the Grand Victoria Hotel's restaurant, Henry and Kate went to bed early, while Charlotte, Amanda and Meghan had drinks at the hotel bar before going up to their rooms, and Jeff, Nick and Austin shared a nightcap in Jeff's room before they all turned in for the night (the bride and groom had separate rooms so they could get ready for the wedding). Amanda told Meghan and Charlotte she'd forgotten something and went back downstairs, and that was the last time anyone saw her; they assumed Amanda went back up to her room by herself until she didn't show up for brunch the next morning and it was discovered her bed hadn't been slept in. Ostensibly, everyone stayed in their own rooms all night, but they can't actually confirm that's where they were. The sole exception is Henry and Kate, though they're not exactly jumping to reveal they spent the night together in Henry's room (given they were married and not to each other).
- Every Breath You Take: Besides Tom Wakeling and his date Tiffany Simons - who both stated they were together the whole night and nowhere near the roof - none of the other potential suspects - Carter Wakeling, Anna Wakeling, Peter Browning, Ivan Gray and Penny Rawling - have confirmable alibis for Virginia's death. The Under Suspicion team note that it's improbable Anna or Penny personally killed Virginia, as they weren't physically strong enough to have lifted Virginia up and thrown her over the roof ledge (the ledge and the shrubbery atop it are too high for someone to be simply shoved over). However, it doesn't completely rule them out, as they could've had an accomplice such as Anna's husband, brother or both, or Penny's secret lover. And then it turns out Tiffany and Tom both lied about being together the entire time; they were briefly separated and Tiffany triggered a silent alarm by stealing a bracelet on the second floor, so she can't confirm where Tom was at that time.
- You Don't Own Me:
- Kendra couldn't have killed her husband Martin personally because she was asleep inside the house when he was gunned down in the driveway, with the nanny Caroline shaking her awake after calling 911. However, it doesn't rule out that she could've hired someone to kill Martin for her.
- Daniel Longfellow says he and his wife Leigh Ann were both in Washington D.C. on the night Martin was killed in Manhattan, though this doesn't rule out the possibility of a hired hit, albeit the police found no evidence of suspicious financial activity. Daniel later reveals that he can only account for his whereabouts, as Leigh Ann wasn't with him in D.C. on the night of the murder; he lied at the time because he was truly convinced Leigh Ann couldn't be involved, so he saw no reason to get Leigh Ann needlessly drawn into the investigation and potentially expose her affair.
- In a short story by Andrew Vachss, a Vigilante Man goes to an underground service that arranges a poker game as an alibi. He then goes to murder the man who raped and murdered his daughter, who objects that he didn't do it, as he was elsewhere playing a poker game at the time. "I know," says the vigilante. "I'm there right now."
- When the Deacon returns to practicing law on Amen, his client in a murder trial turns out to have an alibi that can be easily confirmed by someone else. This someone else has gone missing, but the Deacon obsesses over getting him on the stand anyway. He even triggers a mistrial to stretch out the case long enough for the man to be found.
- Arrow. After Oliver Queen is accused of being the hooded vigilante, he throws a big party at his place that means there are plenty of witnesses when the Hood is seen elsewhere beating up some criminals (it's actually John Diggle wearing his outfit).
- Columbo used this trope a lot. The show's Reverse Whodunit structure would often show the bad guy committing the murder, and then crafting some sort of trick alibi, often by using a Phoney Call or Fresh Clue to deceive the cops as to time of death. Columbo would then methodically pick the alibi apart. In "Suitable for Framing", a guy kills his uncle and then has his girlfriend/accomplice put an electric blanket on the body, to slow the body's cooling and trick the cops into thinking that the victim died later, when the killer was seen at a party.
- In "Agenda For Murder," Oscar Finch kills a racketeer who's trying to blackmail him into doing a favor, lest the blackmailer ruin his friend Paul Mackey's chances at becoming Vice-President. When told of this, Mackey asks curiously, "Who's your alibi?" Cue Oh, Crap! look as Finch smiles evilly at him...
- A recurring theme is how so often, the alibi is exactly what ends up tripping the killer up. How many times has Columbo done the math to realize how far out of their way someone would have to go to ensure they were seen at a specific time and place?
- The Court Of Last Resort episode "The John Smith Case", has the alibi witness located after 22 years. He was a hobo who'd hopped the rails later that night and never knew Smith had been arrested. But he remembers the details clearly, because it had been his birthday, and Smith had spent his last dollar buying him food.
- In the Decoy episode "Fiesta at Midnight", the accused murderer's alibi is a girl named Maria he tried to hit on at midnight, who told him she was getting married on Sunday. But there are no records of any Maria having a wedding on that date. It doesn't help that the one other person who knows that Maria exists is lying to protect the real killer. The police finally realize that Maria meant "married to God", that is, becoming a nun. Happy ending ensues.
- Doctor Who: Since "The Unicorn and the Wasp" is a homage to the tropes of Agatha Christie murder mysteries, the suspects in the murder of Professor Peach all have alibis. But when the Doctor questions each one of them, they only are being half-truthful about what they were actually doing at a quarter past four, and the one alibi flashback that matches up with the speaker's account is that of the actual perpetrator, Reverend Golightly.
- Elementary occasionally has particularly outlandish alibis.
"His alibi for murder is that he was at home raping his sex slave?"
- In "One Way to Get Off", the detectives and Joan are interviewing a man in his home. Sherlock hears something, smashes down a (fake) wall, and reveals a woman the man had been holding captive. Said woman ultimately gives an alibi for the man, leading to the detectives to incredulously comment:
Gregson: So your client's statement is that she couldn't have killed her husband, because she was too busy planning to kill her husband?Sherlock: First time in my career that someone's alibi for murder is that they were busy planning the same murder. If it wasn't so frustrating it would be interesting.
- In "Poison Pen" they suspect a woman poisoned her husband. She eventually admits that when he died she was somewhere else... getting something she could use to poison him.
- On Fargo Lester creates an alibi for himself for the murder of Linda, his second wife. He did not commit the murder, but witnessed it from across the street. He is the natural suspect for the crime and if he told the truth, it would expose the lies he told to cover up a murder he did commit - that of his first wife, Pearl. He quickly goes to a nearby diner and makes a big deal about Linda meeting him there in a few minutes. He then pretends to go to the bathroom but instead sneaks outside where he uses a pay phone to call the police to report gunshots. This skews the timeline enough that the diner owner would report that Lester was in the diner at the time of the murder. The police know that he is lying and use him as bait to catch Malvo, Linda's actual killer.
- Frasier once saw Martin reopen a murder case he couldn't solve during his time on the force. One of the suspects is the victim's boyfriend, a rugged-looking mountain man. Niles says that he looks like the likely suspect, but Daphne says he was eliminated for having an airtight alibi: he was killing someone else at the time.
- Law & Order: Both of the first two kids suspected of carrying out the massacre in "School Daze" turn out to have airtight alibis, which the detectives and the school rather embarrassingly fail to check up on beforehand.
- Lonnie Nolan was visiting his mother in jail and signed the visitors log a few minutes before the shooting.
- Colleen Jacobs transferred to another school a week before the shooting, but the school has no clue about this even though her mother called them and sent letters. The detectives briefly argue that she may have gone back to her old school for revenge, but she was in a therapy session at her new school during the shooting.
- Played for Laughs once on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit when one murder suspect claims that he has a "lullaby". Stabler corrects him on his poor vocabulary before verifying his "lullaby".
- In the first episode, Benson interviews a suspect. She later relates that the woman's alibi is that she was working in her office alone. Stabler dismisses that as an "anti-alibi". Later, we see the detectives leave a different suspect's home and he comments "See, being in Europe, that's an alibi."
- The episode "Baggage" features an elaborate one. After committing the murder, the Serial Killer returns to the scene and massively cranks up the heat, and then leaves and comes back again to turn off the heat and open the window. The heat sped up decomposition causing the ME to think she died one day earlier, a day when the man had an iron-clad alibinote Turning off the heat and opening the window (which then lowered the temperature) concealed this. The kicker?He set all this up for one murder, knowing it would effectively mean he couldn't be charged for any of them.note
- The episode "Behave" a woman is convinced that she knows who her rapist is, but he can prove he was in another city the night it happened, and hotel cameras prove he didn't leave the building. He even has a bill for room service and two movies he watched in the room. Benson however notes that he also has a bill for forcing the window all the way open, allowing him to leave without being on cameras. The room service and pay-per-view don't actually prove he was in the room. He doesn't show up on any toll booths, but the round trip distance for a longer non toll booth route to get to New York is exactly how many miles his rental car has.
- Monk has been known to create ingenious alibis. For example:
- "Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man" has furniture salesman Trevor McDowell kill his girlfriend Gwen Zaleski and make it look like he was running in a city marathon at the time, by taking off the computer chip that tracks his progress and sticking it to the sidecar of the video camera unit that was covering the valedictory run of Nigerian runner Tonday Mawwaka.
- "Mr. Monk Goes Back to School" has science teacher Derek Philby kill his mistress, English teacher Beth Landow, then plant her body on the minute hand of a tall clocktower, before going to his classroom to proctor an SAT, so that at 8:25 AM, the body falls and lands on his car, setting off the alarm.
- "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect" has a case of an alibi where the guy was in a Convenient Coma. His intention was to lead Stottlemeyer and Disher on a police chase and get thrown in jail as a result, but he crashed his car and ended up in the coma which ended up working better for his alibi.
- "Mr. Monk Meets the Playboy" has Monk suspect that billionaire playboy Dexter Larsen killed his publisher Elliott D'Souza. Dex seems shady, and he has a girlfriend who can vouch for him. Then it turns out he bribed her to supply the alibi for him.
- "Mr. Monk and the Astronaut" has astronaut Steve Wagner kill a former girlfriend Joanne Raphelson, and his alibi is that he was in outer space at the time of the murder
- "Mr. Monk and the Bad Girlfriend" has Monk and Natalie suspect that Stottlemeyer's girlfriend Linda Fusco killed her business partner with a shotgun. Her alibi is that she was talking to Monk, Natalie, and Stottlemeyer on webcam right before the murder from her house. There are two suspects in the shooting: Linda and a schoolteacher to whom the victim sold a house, who wrote threatening letters. Monk rules out the schoolteacher because of her lack of an alibi, and decides Linda is the only person who could have done it because the killer waited until there were witnesses before committing the murder, so that someone would be able to say exactly when the shooting happened, because the shooter is someone with an alibi for 7:20 PM.
- In Murdoch Mysteries, Murdoch and his colleagues frequently have to cope with these. One suspect, a university physics professor, actually uses the word "alibi" to Murdoch and the detective finds the word choice remarkable (as does the Inspector when he hears of it).
- NCIS: One episode uses "Alibi" as a title. A Marine is killed in a hit and run. The vehicle owner is suspected. Said owner uses attorney/client privilege to secure his alibi. The attorney checks out the alibi and confirms it. The attorney promptly points Gibbs at a second crime without directly connecting it to her client. Turns out he was across town, committing a different crime at the time. See the trope description for why the attorney/client privilege would only have been a stopgap if the case went to trial.
- One episode of Police Squad! has Drebin trying to break the alibi of a recently released criminal who is the suspect in a series of bombings. He and his girlfriend were lying about his alibi, but it turned out he wasn't the bomber - he had spent the night the bomb was planted at a baseball game, and the reason they were covering it up was because the game was in another state and he hadn't cleared his crossing state lines with his parole officer before leaving. After he helps stop the real criminal, the police choose to let the parole violation slide.
- The Rising:
- At first it looks like Joe murdered Neve. However, then he's alibied by her stepsister Katie, who admits they were having sex at the time of her disappearance.
- William Wyatt was cleared as he had an alibi from his wife, saying he was at home in bed with her. It turns out she'd woken up that night and found him gone however. This helps him to be accused of Neve's murder.
- On Rookie Blue a man is suspected of abducting and killing a child, but his brother insists that they were together all night and never left the house. The cops assume that the brother is lying but the case is not strong enough to go to trial without breaking the alibi first. It's only years later that the cops realize that the brother was providing a false alibi for himself. He was actually the murderer and lying about where the original suspect was (the guy got drunk and slept it off in his car) also provided him with an alibi for the night. The cops correctly suspected that he was lying about that night, but they were wrong about what he was lying about.
- "Alibi, Alibi", in which Elvis Costello lists various "alibis" and summarily discredits them.
- The song "Long Black Veil" has a man whose alibi is that he had been in the arms of his best friend's wife. Rather than reveal this and disgrace her, he chooses to stay mum and die.
- "Over the Hills and Far Away" by Gary Moore is about a man's arrest and trial for armed robbery. He refuses to give an alibi because it would expose his affair with his best friend's wife and he'll be able to see her again if he just waits out his sentence.
- Parodied in Batman: Arkham Origins with the Bad Guy Bar My Alibi. Presumably everyone there will cover for another patron.
- Love & Pies: All of the suspects on Amelia's list give alibis for where they were on the night of the arson attack. Some of them even have pictures of them with the burning cafe in the background. In fact, Raj has three: 30 minutes before the fire, he finished a triathlon, then he and his wife had a picture with his trophy outside Global Megacorp 10 minutes before, and finally, he went to the dentist 5 minutes after.
- One key gameplay element in Paradise Killer is identifying and poking holes in the alibis of all the potential suspects. For example, the doctor claims that he was his office at the time and door logs confirm this, but further investigation reveals a back door where the logging system is broken, meaning he could have left that way without creating a paper trail. Only one character lacks an alibi, and only one of the characters with alibis actually has one that rendered them incapable of committing the crime.
- In Persona 4, the victim of the murder that kicks off the story was connected to two people who would seem to have ample motive to want her dead (due to a recent scandal). Problem is, both of these would-be prime suspects have rock-solid alibis: One was overseas at the time (verified by phone records), and the other was at his office in the city (verified by plenty of witnesses and other evidence). Neither of them had anything to do with it, although the suspect who was at his office is a major Red Herring later in the story.
- This is usually a point of discussion in the trials of the Ace Attorney series. Sometimes you will have to prove that a witness's alibi is false so you can tie them to the crime. Notable examples:
- In "Reunion and Turnabout," Lotta Hart, of all people, correctly identifies the culprit as the one person besides Maya who didn't have an alibi at the time of the murder.
- In "Turnabout Samurai", the killer says they were nowhere near the crime scene... but this is turned on its side when it's discovered that the real crime scene was exactly where the killer claimed to be.
- In "The Stolen Turnabout", the culprit wants to be found guilty of larceny in place A to give themselves an alibi for the murder they committed in place B.
- Apollo Justice:
- In "Turnabout Serenade", the murderer claims throughout the case that they have a solid rock alibi because they were onstage when the crime occurred. It is later revealed that the murder happened before they came to the stage, thus giving them the chance to do it.
- In case 4, the killer was in prison when the victim died by poison. Turns out the poison was delivered by mail to the victim much, much earlier than the time the killer was sent to prison, making it possible they did it. Cue the perp saying that they had no way to know whether the victim would ever eat the poison, which Klavier calls them out on because there was no need to know that.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
- The culprit of "The Monstrous Turnabout" tries to get another witness to lie and serve as an alibi, but that witness being caught in a lie proves to be the culprit's undoing.
- In "Turnabout Academy," the culprit was supposedly on stage speaking while the murder was being carried out. After it's proven that he recorded his entire speech, his alibi falls apart.
- Spirit of Justice:
- In "The Magical Turnabout", the culprit was miles away from the crime scene at the time of murder, but you must prove that this alibi is useless since they didn't need to be there for the killing to be done.
- In "Turnabout Revolution", the culprit has a seemingly ironclad alibi of having performed a spirit summoning ritual in front of an audience at the time of the murder, until it's revealed that they had another person pretend to be them during that ritual.
- In the DLC case, the perp says they were always with other people the night of the crime, so they couldn't do it. But turns out there was one time when they weren't watched.
- In Danganronpa, the class trials have less stringent standards than an actual courtroom, so alibis are accepted as evidence more easily.
- In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the group tries to determine who has an alibi for the murders in the third chapter, only to find that only Hajime and Mikan have alibis. It turns out that Mikan deliberately used Hajime as her alibi for the murders, which had been committed hours in advance of the body discovery, and tried to make it seem as though the murders had only just happened.
- In the first trial of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the students are divided into four groups- at the time of the murder Kaede and Shuichi were in the classroom, Kaito took a few students to the basement to get ready to fight the mastermind (although Gonta shut himself inside the A.V. room, giving him a possible chance to commit the murder), Miu and a few other students waited in the dining hall (Tsumugi briefly left to use the bathroom), and a handful of students had stayed in their room. Oddly enough, no one in the latter group ever comes under suspicion for the murder, possibly because they were too far away. The apparent main culprit, Kaede, took advantage of a brief opportunity when Shuichi wasn't watching to roll the shot put through the vent... and missed. Tsumugi had snuck off to a secret passage, committed the murder and came back with no one the wiser during her bathroom break.
- In Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, when one of the guests turns up dead during the Halloween party, the group must determine whether it was a suicide or a murder, and if it is the latter, who is responsible. Since Raiko and Nobara were down in the basement turning on the breakers at the time, and most of the rest of the guests were together, the suspects are narrowed down to the four without an alibi- Runa, Hiro, Kamen and Mika. While Hiro is considered the prime suspect until he is murdered, and Kamen becomes the prime suspect(with Hiro and Runa being alternate choices), it ultimately turns out to be Momoko, the aforementioned first victim, who'd faked her death, killed Hiro, left Kotoba to die and then actually hanged herself.
- In General Protection Fault, during the "Surreptitious Machinations" arc, Fooker is arrested and charged with a shooting at a mall, which had been committed by a robotic doppelganger of him from the Bad Future. Since all evidence of the Fookinator was destroyed, the only piece of evidence that can prove his innocence is that he was out of the country at the time of the crime. Unfortunately, since he was working as a spy for the Undisclosed Government Agency, he can't reveal that evidence without blowing his cover.
- In Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Appointment in Crime Alley", Roland Dagget wants to rezone and redevelop Gotham's old Park Row neighborhood (a slum known locally by the name of "Crime Alley"). His request is denied by the Town Hall, so he arranges so that an arsonist will blow up Crime Alley while making it look like a gas explosion. This is scheduled to happen at 9:00 sharp, while Dagget himself is attending a business meeting. As explained above, this is not actually an alibi, but Mr. Dagget isn't a legal expert.
- Several episodes of The Dick Tracy Show had interstitials narrated by Tracy himself about law enforcement, such as this:
The police radio control center is an important aid in the war against crime. A suspect alibied that he was at an address in another city at the time of a crime. Radio control contacted the city. The address came back as an empty lot and within minutes the suspect's alibi was broken. And now, another cartoon.
- The Simpsons: In "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part Two", Chief Wiggum goes down the list of suspects and finds that each one has an alibi or other exculpation.
- Smithers, who at first confessed to the murder, makes a comment from the show Pardon My Zinger while being interviewed. Watching the news, Sideshow Mel realized that the show aired at the time of the shooting, and thus Smithers was not the shooter. Further interrogation revealed that he had shot Jasper on his wooden leg while in a drunken rage.
- Guest star Tito Puente planned revenge on Burns, but chose to do so with a slanderous mambo.
- Principal Skinner confesses he was on his way to shoot Burns, but was still applying face paint when the shooting occurred. Superintendent Chalmers can vouch for him, "but everything else he says is a filthy lie." (Chalmers had caught him putting on his mother's makeup by mistake.)
- Groundskeeper Willie couldn't have fired the shot because of crippling arthritis on his index fingers, which he got in the eighties from Space Invaders. note