Florida Court Discusses Admissibility of Other Crime Evidence

Generally, the Government cannot introduce evidence that a person previously was convicted of a crime prove a person’s character to demonstrate that they acted in accordance with that character on a specific occasion. In other words, proof a person committed a crime on a prior occasion cannot be used to establish guilt in a current criminal proceeding. Evidence of other crimes and bad acts can be introduced for other purposes, however. In a recent opinion issued in a drug crime case, a Florida court discussed the grounds for admissibility of evidence of other crimes. If you are charged with a drug offense, you should confer with a Tampa drug crime defense lawyer to discuss what evidence the Government is permitted to use against you.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with multiple drug crimes arising out of his alleged conspiracy to possess methamphetamines. The defendant’s coconspirator pleaded guilty, while the defendant entered a not guilty plea. The Government sought to introduce the defendant’s two prior convictions for possession of controlled substances with the intent to distribute at trial. The defendant moved to preclude the evidence as proof of other crimes, wrongs, and bad acts pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b).

Admissibility of Other Crime Evidence

Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) prohibits parties from using evidence of other acts, crimes, or wrongs to establish a person’s nature and to show that they acted in accord with that nature in a particular instance. Such evidence may be admissible for other purposes, though. Specifically, it can be used to show intent, motive, plan, knowledge, and identity, among other things.

In order to be admissible, evidence of other crimes must be relevant to an issue other than the defendant’s nature, and there must be adequate evidence to allow the jury to find the defendant committed the other act. Additionally, the evidence must possess probative value that is not greatly outweighed by the risk of prejudice and must meet all of the other requirements imposed by the Federal Rules of Evidence.

In the subject case, the defendant asserted that the age and factually dissimilarity of his prior drug crime convictions made them both highly prejudicial and minimally probative. The Government replied that it intended to introduce such evidence as proof of intent and knowledge and to show that the defendant’s behavior was not an accident or mistake. The court ultimately determined that evidence of a 2003 conviction was too temporally remote to be relevant but allowed the Government to introduce evidence of the 2011 conviction.

Meet with a Dedicated Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

The Government is generally not permitted to introduce irrelevant or prejudicial evidence to prove a defendant’s guilt, but it can introduce evidence of other wrongs for certain purposes. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is smart to speak to an attorney regarding your rights. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a dedicated Tampa drug crime defense attorney with ample experience defending people accused of committing drug offenses, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted through the online form or at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.