Many folks facing criminal charges are often confused by the court process and why ‘everything’ cannot be brought up in a criminal trial. Unfortunately (or fortunately – depending on which side of the case you sit), it is not as simple as throwing the proverbial bowl of noodles at the wall and see what sticks. The attorneys (and the court) are bound by ‘evidence rules’. If the attorneys violate those rules, they can be sanctioned and the case may be negatively compromised, which could result in a mistrial or substantive appellate issues/ challenges being filed.
When it comes to evidence of ‘other crimes, wrongs, or acts’, Evidence Rule 404(b) applies. Evidence Rule 404(b) holds that evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts may not be admitted to establish, or otherwise prove, that the defendant acted in conformity with that act in the present case at hand. In other words, the prosecution cannot rely on evidence of past crimes, wrongs or bad acts to show the crime alleged in the instant case was committed.
Evidence of prior acts, however, can be admissible into evidence for certain other reasons. These reasons include – motive, opportunity, and intent. Washington courts may also permit such evidence to be admitted under a “res gestae” exception. That exception allows such evidence “if it is so connected in time, place circumstances, or means employed that proof of such other misconduct is necessary for a complete description of the crime charged, or constitutes proof of the history of the crime charged.” A court will only admit ER 404(b) evidence, however, if it first finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the misconduct occurred, determines that the evidence is relevant to a material issue, and balances the evidence’s probative value against the risk of unfair prejudice.
Trials can be challenging that is for darn sure. The main thing to keep in mind is that the rules which guide them were created to ensure fairness throughout the process, both for defendants and for victims alike.
Whenever cited for a crime it is imperative to hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney. The Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle criminal defense lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested or charged 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 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 you are cited with an infraction or arrested and/or charged with misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or a felony, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900.