Florida Court Discusses Evidence of Prior Crimes in Criminal Cases

In criminal matters, the prosecution bears the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the charged offense. Generally, the prosecution is permitted to introduce any relevant evidence in support of its position. Certain evidence, like prior convictions or bad acts, is typically deemed inadmissible, however, subject to certain exceptions. Recently, a Florida court discussed the instances in which the Government is allowed to introduce evidence of prior crimes and bad acts, in an opinion issued in a case in which the defendant moved to preclude evidence of his prior conviction for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence. If you are charged with a violent offense, it is smart to speak to a trusted Clearwater violent crime defense lawyer to discuss what evidence the Government may use against you.

The Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with an unspecified criminal offense. Prior to trial, he filed a motion to preclude the Government from introducing evidence that he was previously convicted of brandishing a firearm during the commission of a crime. Specifically, the defendant argued that it was an extrinsic act that only served to impermissibly demonstrate a propensity to commit crimes of violence or brandish firearms, and any probative value was greatly outweighed by the risk of prejudice.

Allegedly, in response, the Government argued that the evidence was intrinsic, and therefore the prohibition of prior crimes did not apply, but that even if it was extrinsic, the prejudicial effect did not outweigh its probative value. After considering the pleadings, the court ultimately denied the defendant’s motion.

Evidence of Prior Crimes

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), evidence of other wrongs, acts, or crimes is not admissible to show that a defendant has a predisposition or propensity to commit the crimes for which they are indicted. This type of extrinsic evidence is admissible in some instances, though, such as where it is relevant to another issue, like identity or motive, adequate evidence exists to allow a jury to find that the defendant committed the extrinsic act, and the probative value of the evidence is not greatly outweighed by the potential for undue prejudice.

The court explained that Rule 404(b) is not a rule of exclusion but is a rule of inclusion, and therefore, extrinsic evidence should be admitted unless it tends to show only criminal propensity. In the subject case, the court found that the defendant’s prior conviction for brandishing a firearm while committing a violent crime was not intrinsic evidence. The court nonetheless found that it was admissible under Rule 404(b). As such, it denied the defendant’s motion.

Confer with a Skilled Clearwater Attorney

People charged with violent crimes often worry they will be subject to significant penalties, but there are often defenses they can assert to avoid being convicted. If you are accused of a violent offense, it is in your best interest to speak to a lawyer about your rights. The skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorneys of Hanlon Law can gather any evidence in your favor and craft compelling arguments to provide you with a strong chance of a favorable result. You can contact  Hanlon Law via the online form or by calling 727-897-5413 to set up a conference.

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