Shaffer & Engle Personal attention. Compassionate response. Fast Results.
Shaffer & Engle Personal attention. Compassionate response. Fast Results.

Prior Crimes- When It Becomes Admissible At Trial

Partner With A Trusted Legal Ally, Call:
717-827-4074

In some cases, the prosecution may be permitted to bring in evidence of past crimes for which the defendant has been charged or convicted.

Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Sex Crimes Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

In many sex crimes cases or even other cases I've tried, the prosecution has sought to bring in evidence of past criminal activity of the defendant.  But, "this goes against everything we know about a fair trial...why am I being judged on things that I'm not charged with...?"  Clients may often say to me.  My clients usually have a good instinct about due process and evidence. There are exceptions within the Rules of Evidence in PA.

Rule 404(b) Allows This Exception

This exception is generally included within the common scheme, plan, or design exception. Under Pa.R.E. 404(b), evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts may be admitted only upon a showing that the probative value of the evidence outweighs its potential for prejudice.

Under certain limited exceptions, evidence of crimes other than the crime for which the defendant is on trial is admissible.  As with any evidentiary ruling, the trial judge should balance the relevancy and evidentiary need for the evidence of prior crimes against the potential for undue prejudice.  Evidence of other crimes may be admitted when the evidence of other crimes tends to prove:

  1. Motive;
  2. Intent;
  3. Absence of mistake or accident;
  4. common scheme, plan or design embracing commission of two or more crimes so related to each other that proof of one tends to prove the others; or
  5. When evidence of the other crimes tends to establish the identity of the person charged with the commission of the crime on trial. In other words, such evidence is admissible when there is such a logical connection between the crimes that proof of one will naturally tend to show that the accused is the person who committed the other.
  6. A sixth exception has also been articulated. Evidence of a crime independent of the crime for which the accused is being tried is admissible if the crime was committed to conceal the commission of the crime on trial or to escape its consequences. So called, "cover up crimes."  This exception is generally included within the common scheme, plan, or design exception. Under Pa.R.E. 404(b), evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts may be admitted only upon a showing that the probative value of the evidence outweighs its potential for prejudice.

Reasonable Notice Is Required

Rule 404(b) also requires that the Commonwealth provide reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial, for good cause shown, if it intends to introduce such evidence. Formal notice is not required.

Having a trial attorney with experience and knowledge of the Rules of Evidence is important.  You may contact the attorneys at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information