Court Explains the Right to Confront Witnesses in Michigan Criminal Trials

Criminal defendants are granted numerous rights under the state and federal constitutions to ensure that they receive a fair trial. For example, they have the right to confront any witnesses who testify against them. There are some exceptions to this general rule, however, as demonstrated in a recent opinion in a matter in which the defendant argued the court admitted inappropriate evidence in his domestic violence trial. If you are charged with a domestic violence crime, it is smart to confer with a Michigan criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with domestic violence, which was his third such offense. During the trial, the prosecution read testimony offered by the defendant’s son in the preliminary examination in another domestic violence matter involving the defendant. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to thirteen to fifteen years in prison. He then filed an appeal, arguing among other things that the trial court erred in admitting his son’s testimony, as it violated his constitutional right to confront a witness against him.

The Right to Confront Witnesses in a Criminal Matter

On appeal, the court explained that a trial court’s determination that evidence is admissible will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion. An abuse of discretion occurs when a court makes a decision that is outside of the range of principled and reasonable outcomes or commits an error of law.

Under the Michigan Rules of Evidence, former testimony given by a witness at another hearing is admissible at trial in certain circumstances as an exception to the rule against hearsay. Specifically, the witness in question must be unavailable, and the defendant must have had a chance and similar motive to develop the witness’ testimony in the prior proceeding via direct, cross, or redirect examination.

The court noted that the Confrontation Clause of the state and federal constitutions guarantees criminal defendants the right to confront witnesses against them. It explained that statements are testimonial if their primary purpose is to establish or demonstrate past acts that could be relevant to later criminal prosecution. Further, it noted that the use of testimony from a preliminary examination does not violate a criminal defendant’s right to confront witnesses who testify for the prosecution.

Specifically, it explained that the use of testimony from a previous preliminary examination is admissible because defense counsel had the chance to develop the testimony on cross-examination. Thus, the Confrontation Clause is satisfied when a victim’s prior testimony is admitted because it bears sufficient indicia of reliability. As such, the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Speak to a Dedicated Criminal Defense Lawyer in Michigan

Domestic violence charges can harm a person’s reputation, and people charged with such offenses generally have the right to confront their accusers. If you are accused of a domestic violence offense, you should speak to an attorney to determine your possible defenses. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a dedicated Michigan criminal defense attorney who can aid you in pursuing the best legal result possible 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 meeting.

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