Michigan Court Discusses Impeaching a Witness in a Criminal Trial

In Michigan, assault crimes range from misdemeanors to felonies, and the severity of a charge depends on numerous factors. For example, a person that brandishes a weapon during an attack may be accused of a felonious assault. In many instances, the circumstances surrounding an altercation are disputed, and the State will use witness testimony to establish guilt. As such, if a defendant can demonstrate a witness lacks credibility, the jury may be less inclined to believe the person. Recently, a Michigan court discussed the grounds for impeaching a witness in a criminal case in a matter in which a defendant appealed her felonious assault conviction. If you are charged with assault, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Michigan criminal defense attorney to determine your options.

The Subject Assault

It is reported that the defendant, her niece, and her niece’s boyfriend went to the movies together and then returned to the defendant’s home. Their accounts of what transpired after they entered the defendant’s house differed, however. Specifically, the niece and her boyfriend stated the defendant began paranoid and accused them of stealing things, and while waving a knife around, the defendant cut her niece’s hand.

Allegedly, the defendant advised that her niece and her niece’s boyfriend stole multiple items, and she picked up the knife to scare them into giving them back when she cut her niece. She was charged with felonious assault. Her niece and her niece’s boyfriend gave their accounts of what occurred at trial, and a jury found the defendant guilty as charged. She appealed, arguing in part that her counsel was ineffective.

Impeaching a Witness in a Criminal Trial

On appeal, the court initially noted that the defendant admitted to the elements of felonious assault via her testimony at trial. Regardless of that fact, though, she argued her lawyer failed to impeach her niece’s boyfriend with evidence of his prior convictions and, therefore, was ineffective.

The court explained that to establish an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a person must show that an attorney’s performance was deficient and that the deficiencies prejudiced the defendant. Deficiencies can be shown by establishing that the attorney’s performance fell below an objective reasonability standard.

Here, the court noted that the boyfriend was convicted of receiving and concealing stolen property, which was a misdemeanor crime and was sentenced to probation. The Michigan Rules of Evidence provides for the admission of evidence of criminal convictions for impeachment purposes is only allowed if the crime was punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and contained an element of fraud or contained an element of false statement or dishonesty.

As the requisite elements were not present in the boyfriend’s underlying crimes, the court found that they would not be admissible, and therefore, the defendant’s attorney acted reasonably by not introducing them into evidence. Thus, it denied her appeal.

Speak to a Trusted Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer

Assault crimes may be charged as felonies that carry lengthy prison sentences, but in many instances, the State lacks the evidence needed to obtain a conviction. If you are charged with assault, it is smart to speak to an attorney about your rights. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a trusted Michigan criminal defense attorney with the skills and experience needed to obtain successful outcomes, and if you hire him, he can formulate a compelling case in your favor. You can reach Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to schedule a meeting.

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