Using a witness’ criminal history in a criminal defense

On Behalf of | Feb 11, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

In many instances, the strength of a prosecutor’s case lies with his or her witnesses. Their testimony can convince a jury to convict an individual of a serious criminal offense like murder, manslaughter, or some other violent crime, with the result being the imposition of harsh penalties that can forever ruin an individual’s life. Therefore, defendants in a criminal case need to make sure they are doing everything they can to protect their interests, which may mean attacking the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Under the law, there are a number of ways that a witness’ credibility can be attacked. One way is to put forth evidence that the witness has a criminal history. However, before evidence of a witness’s criminal history can be presented in court, certain requirements must be met. To start, the witness can only be asked about his or her criminal history of cross-examination, and evidence of the criminal conviction can only be submitted if the witness denies it once asked.

There are other elements that must be met, too. For example, the conviction in question can only be utilized if it resulted in punishment of at least one year’s worth of incarceration. There is an exception to this rule for crimes that relate to dishonesty, such as forgery. Also, except for a few exceptions, the criminal conviction must have occurred within the last 10 years. If evidence of a criminal conviction is being used to attack the credibility of the defendant in the current case, then the court must first determine that its probative value outweighs any prejudicial effect it may have.

This may sound like a lot of legal talk, but what is important to note is that a lot of the work in a criminal defense is focused on diminishing the other side’s take on the facts at hand. With the assistance of a competent criminal defense attorney, those individuals who are facing the most serious allegations can ensure that their interests are represented as aggressively as possible, which includes an aggressive attack on all of a prosecution’s weaknesses.


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