Impeaching A Witness With Prior Bad Acts

​The admissibility of any past misconduct for impeachment in a criminal case is limited at the outset by the relevance requirement. To be relevant, an uncharged offense must tend logically, naturally and by reasonable inference to prove the issue(s) on which it is offered. A key consideration for trial courts in evaluating the prejudicial nature of the uncharged acts is whether the prior bad acts resulted in criminal convictions; prior convictions minimize the risk the jury would be tempted to punish the defendant for the uncharged acts. Evidence of prior arrests that did not result in convictions was inadmissible either as proof of guilt or for impeachment. It is not competent for the prosecutor to introduce irrelevant evidence falling short of crime and designed merely to degrade and prejudice the defendant in the minds of the jury “Impeachment evidence other than felony convictions entails problems of proof, unfair surprise, and moral turpitude evaluation which felony convictions do not present. Hence, courts may and should consider with particular care whether the admission of such evidence might involve undue time, confusion, or prejudice which outweighs its probative value.” People v. Cloyd is a case that sheds light on the issue[holding that evidence of prior arrests was inadmissible because it suggested the defendant had a bad character];

​Equally availing are uncharged bad acts. Evidence of prior uncharged acts is only admissible to show a common plan or scheme. See Evid.Code, § 1101, subd. (b)), In determining whether to admit prior uncharged acts as propensity evidence, the court must balance the probative value of the evidence against its inflammatory nature, the possibility of confusion, its remoteness in time, and the amount of time involved in introducing and refuting the evidence. Many Court opinions have held that Since defendant’s intent was not at issue, [e]vidence of uncharged acts could not be admitted to prove an irrelevant matter]; See also People v. Atchley 53 Cal.2d 160, 172 (alleged forgery of rental receipts for use to deceive welfare department for which witness was never charged with or convicted of held not admissible for impeachment purposes.) Most Torrance Criminal Attorneys will try and admit this type of evidence when they can.

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty five years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV regarding license suspension hearings stemming from drunk driving arrests.
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