When a defendant is charged with a crime, at trial the only evidence that should usually be put forward by the state is evidence related to those crimes charged. However, sometimes there are circumstances for the crimes alleged that require explanation. In some of those situations, the state will need to bring in evidence of other crimes that were committed in order to help the jury understand the circumstances in which the charged crimes were committed. This may seem confusing, and it can be, which is why you should consult an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney to help you understand whether it is proper for collateral crimes evidence to be introduced during your trial.
An example may help make the concept of collateral crimes more understandable. In a case that was recently heard by the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, a man appealed his conviction for attempted second-degree murder with a deadly weapon, witness tampering, and criminal mischief. One of the errors he alleges is that the court impermissibly admitted evidence of a collateral armed robbery allegedly committed earlier in the day by the defendant.
The prosecution alleges that the defendant went to the home of his ex-girlfriend a few hours before the incident that the charges came from. He is alleged to have held her up at gunpoint and demanded her phone from her. The defendant returned to her house with her phone a few hours later, and then began shooting. The attempted murder and other charges that he was convicted of all stem from this shooting.
At trial, the prosecution included evidence and testimony related to the earlier armed robbery when he allegedly took his girlfriend’s phone. The defendant now appeals his convictions in part based on his contention that the state should never have been allowed to put on this evidence of the earlier crime.
When Evidence of Collateral Crimes Can be Introduced
Florida law allows evidence of collateral crimes to be introduced at trial if the evidence is inseparable from the acts that are at issue. Evidence of collateral crimes will be admissible as long as one of four elements is met. Collateral crime evidence can be introduced if it is necessary to adequately describe the crimes charged, provide an intelligent account of the crimes charged, establish the context in which the charged crimes arose, or is needed to adequately describe the events leading up to the charged crimes. The trial court’s decisions on the admissibility of collateral crimes will only be disturbed if the appeals court finds that the lower court abused their discretion.
Here, the appeals court held that the trial court did not abuse their discretion by allowing evidence of the earlier armed robbery in at trial. The appeals court explained that this evidence was necessary to understand the context that the attempted murder occurred in, and also the relationship between the defendant and the victim. Thus, the admission of the evidence was proper.
Contact an Experienced Clearwater Sex Crimes Criminal Defense Attorney Today!
If you are charged with a sex crime, violent crime, or other crimes, you should contact a knowledgeable Clearwater sex crimes criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The skilled attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm have extensive experience defending clients from criminal charges and will fight zealously on your behalf. Contact us online or call our offices at (727) 897-5413 to speak with our attorneys today.
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