DiCindio Law LLC | October 14, 2014 | Criminal Defense
Often times in a criminal case in Chester County, or any of the surrounding counties, prosecutors will attempt to introduce evidence of an accused’s prior bad acts, or evidence or other crimes. This can be devastating to a successful defense in a criminal case. This may happen in a case where identity is at issue or where intent is an element that the Commonwealth must be prove – among others. One of the common times that this would happen would be in a case of violence where the charges are simple assault or aggravated assault and the Commonwealth must prove that the attack was intentional.
By law, before the Commonwealth may introduce these “prior bad acts” they must first put the criminal defendant on notice. Typically, this required notice is accomplished by advising an accused’s criminal defense lawyer that they intend to do so. This evidence in a criminal case, if admitted, is not permitted to be used to show a criminal defendant’s “bad character”, or to say, “they have done it once, now they have done it again.”
Because of the intricacies of this type of argument and the great potential impact having these “prior acts” introduced into evidence may have on a criminal case, it is crucial that an individual accused of a crime have an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer to analyze the case, the facts, the law and argue against allowing this type of evidence being admissible.
Your past should not be used to help prove new criminal accusations against you.
Evidence of an accused’s other crimes, wrongs, or bad acts, is generally not admissible solely to show action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion in a criminal case. See Pa.R.E. 404. More specifically, this evidence is inadmissible to prove a defendant’s propensity to commit the crime for which he is being tried. Pa.R.E. 404(b)(1); see also Commonwealth v. Lockcuff, 813 A.2d 857, 860 (Pa. Super. 2002).
Evidence of other crimes may however be admissible when the evidence serves a legitimate evidentiary purpose, and is not merely offered to prejudice the defendant. See Commonwealth v. Weakley, 972 A.2d 1182, 2009 Pa. Super 74 (2009). It is a skilled criminal defense attorneys job to argue against allowing this type of evidence into a criminal case.
The Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence provide a non-exhaustive list of legitimate evidentiary purposes that past crimes may be admitted to prove. See Pa. R.Evid. 404(b). Of those listed, other crimes of an accused may be admitted to prove motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident. Pa.R.E. 404(b)(2). Further, while one or more admissible purpose must be present before evidence of an accused’s prior bad acts can be admitted, even if a legitimate evidentiary purpose is found by a Court, the evidence still is admissible only if the probative value of the evidence outweighs its potential for unfair prejudice. Pa.R.E. 404(b)(2).
Therefore, a criminal defense attorney must be prepared to know the law and argue effectively against one of the enumerated purposes, or other legitimate evidentiary purpose, and also be prepared to show the Court why the evidence a prosecutor is attempting to admit has a potential for unfair prejudice that outweighs the probative value.
When the Commonwealth places a criminal defendant on notice that it intends to introduce evidence of “prior bad acts” often times a criminal defense attorney must file a motion in limine in order to ask the Court to address the argument and make a determination as to the admissibility of the evidence the Commonwealth seeks to introduce. A criminal defense lawyer is needed to effectively and aggressively defend against this type of evidence being ruled admissible.
If you have been accused of a crime in Chester County, Montgomery County or the greater Philadelphia area, and you believe your prior actions or crimes may, or have already, become an issue in your case – Contact Mike DiCindio directly today to schedule your free consultation.
***This blog is made available by the law firm publisher for educational purposes and to provide general information, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The blog should not be used, nor is it meant to be, as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.***
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West Chester, PA 19382