Michigan Court Discusses Evidence of Other Acts in Criminal Trials

Typically, in Michigan criminal trials, the prosecution is not permitted to introduce evidence that the defendant previously engaged in wrongful behavior that is similar to the criminal offense they are accused of committing. There are some exceptions, though, as demonstrated in a recent Michigan matter in which the defendant challenged his conviction for sexual assault after the prosecution introduced evidence of a prior similar incident. If you are charged with assault or any other crime, it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable Michigan criminal defense attorney to determine what evidence the state may introduce against you.

The History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with sexual assault. During the trial, the victim testified that she was unconscious and woke up to the defendant strangling her and having sex with her. Additionally, another woman testified that on a previous occasion, she slept on the defendant’s couch and woke up to the defendant strangling her and having sex with her. The jury found the defendant guilty as charged. He appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in permitting the prosecution to admit prior bad acts evidence.

The Introduction of Prior Bad Acts Evidence

The appellate court affirmed the defendant’s conviction. The court explained that, except for cases involving an abuse of discretion, an appellate court would not disturb a trial court’s decision to admit the evidence. A trial court commits an abuse of discretion if it allows evidence that is inadmissible as a matter of law.

The court noted that evidence of a defendant’s other bad acts is typically not admissible to show the defendant’s propensity to commit similar acts. Such evidence is governed by Michigan Rule of Evidence 404(b), which provides that evidence of other crimes or wrongs is not admissible to establish the character of the defendant in order to demonstrate they acted in conformance with that character.

The court clarified, though, that there is an exception for cases in which the defendant is charged with sexual assault. In such instances, the law permits the admission of evidence that the defendant engaged in other acts of sexual assault for any relevant purpose. Notably, this includes the purpose of demonstrating a defendant’s inclination to commit sexual assault.

While evidence of prior sexual assaults is generally admissible, it may be precluded if its exclusion is warranted under the Michigan Rule of Evidence 403. That rule provides that evidence may be excluded if the risk of prejudice far outweighs its probative value. The court found that that was not the case in the subject matter. As such, it affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Confer with a Trusted Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Generally, the courts cannot prove that a person committed a crime by introducing evidence of their behavior on other occasions, but there are exceptions. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is smart to confer with an attorney regarding your rights. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a trusted Michigan criminal defense lawyer who can help you seek the best legal outcome 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 conference.

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