Court Discusses Prior Bad Acts Evidence in Michigan Criminal Cases

In Michigan, it is unlawful to engage in sexual activity with a person who is unable to consent. In attempting to prove a person engaged in criminal sexual conduct, the prosecution will typically rely on circumstantial evidence, which may include proof that the person previously engaged in similar acts. While evidence of prior bad acts is inadmissible to establish guilt, it can be introduced to show a motive, plan, or scheme, as discussed in a recent Michigan ruling. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a sex offense, it is in your best interest to confer with a Michigan criminal defense lawyer to assess what evidence the state may attempt to use against you.

The Alleged Crime

It is reported that the victim and the defendant attended a work event together. After the event, they went out drinking along with other individuals. The victim became intoxicated and returned to another companion’s hotel room, where she became sick and then fell asleep.

Allegedly, she awoke hours later and noticed that the defendant’s arm was around her and his hand was feeling around inside of her underwear. The victim elbowed the defendant, who stopped. He was later charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was convicted, after which he appealed.

Prior Bad Acts Evidence in Michigan Criminal Cases

On appeal, the defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court erred in allowing his former girlfriend to testify that days before the subject incident, the defendant engaged in non-consensual anal sex with her while she was sleeping. The appellate court explained that while evidence of other wrongs is not admissible to establish guilt, it can be used to show intent, proof of motive, or a common plan or scheme.

Essentially, the rule regarding prior bad acts evidence is one of inclusion that allows for relevant other acts evidence to be admitted as long as it is not being used solely to demonstrate criminal tendencies. In other words, it is admissible if it is being offered for a proper reason, is relevant to a material fact, and its probative value is not significantly outweighed by the risk of prejudice.

In the subject case, the prosecution introduced the testimony from the defendant’s former girlfriend to show a common plan or scheme. The appellate court found that the prior act and the conduct out of which the defendant’s charge arose were sufficiently similar to establish a common plan, and the introduction of evidence of the defendant’s prior bad acts was therefore proper. Thus, it affirmed his conviction.

Meet with a Skilled Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

The state cannot attempt to prove a criminal defendant’s guilt by introducing evidence of prior bad acts, but it may be able to use such evidence for other purposes. If you are accused of a crime of a sexual nature, it is smart to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a skilled Michigan criminal defense lawyer who can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.






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