In criminal trials although some evidence may be relevant it may also be unfairly prejudicial. If the evidence is deemed more prejudicial than probative, the court is required to exclude it. Procedurally the court balances the probative value of the evidence against the risk that it is too prejudicial; if the court finds that the risk of prejudice substantially outweighs the probative value, the evidence will be excluded.
In a recent domestic violence related case, A Washington State appeals court considered whether the trial court erred in allowing evidence of an alleged victim’s pregnancy even though the evidence was obviously prejudicial to the defendant’s case. In the case there was a domestic violence no-contact order prohibiting the defendant from contacting or coming within 500 feet of the mother of his child. The woman was pregnant at the time with another child. The defendant was charged with a violation of a court order (a felony), and assault 4th degree. During trial, the defendant moved to exclude the pregnancy evidence arguing that it was more prejudicial than probative. The prosecutor conversely argued the evidence was relevant because it supported that there had been a harmful or offensive touching, which is an element of the crime charged. The judge found that the pregnancy evidence was relevant and that the 911 testimony would be admitted. Thereafter, the pregnancy was referenced during the state’s case-in-chief and in closing argument.
The jury convicted the defendant of a misdemeanor violation of a court order with a domestic violence special finding, not the originally charged felony violation of a court order. On appeal, the Appellate court found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the pregnancy evidence. The court found that the pregnancy combined with the physical contact to the woman’s abdomen were material to whether the defendant had committed a harmful or offensive touching. Thus, the trial court had properly balanced relevance against the potential for unfair prejudice in allowing the pregnancy evidence into the trial.
If you (or a loved one) find yourself facing a DV related criminal charge, it is infinitely important to immediately contact and hire a Seattle domestic violence attorney. The Seattle domestic violence attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle domestic violence lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether cited for domestic violence related assault, malicious mischief, property destruction or some other crime, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys immediately at 206.441.0900.