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Are Past Convictions Admissible in My California Criminal Case?

October 11, 2019

In some situations, your past convictions can be used against you

Are Past Convictions Admissible in My California Criminal Case?

Being charged with a crime is incredibly stressful. If you already have a criminal history, it can make facing criminal charges that much harder. Even if you are innocent of the current charges, you may feel trapped — how can you defend yourself if you have prior convictions? Will the prosecution be able to use your criminal history against you?

The answer? Maybe.

According to a criminal defense attorney Riverside, CA, California’s evidence rules generally prohibits the introduction of character evidence. This means that the prosecutor cannot introduce evidence of bad acts that you committed in the past (whether or not they were criminal) to prove that you committed the crime in question. For example, if you were previously fired from a job for allegedly stealing supplies — but never charged with a crime — that typically cannot be used as evidence that you committed the crime of child abuse.

However, as with many legal rules, there are exceptions. There are times that a prosecutor can introduce evidence of your bad character. This includes:

  • If you introduce evidence of your good character, the prosecutor can introduce evidence of your bad character to rebut your evidence;
  • If you introduce evidence of the victim’s violent character, then the prosecutor can introduce evidence of your violent character;
  • If you are charged with a California sex crime, then the prosecutor can introduce evidence that you have committed other sex crimes in the past, whether or not there was an arrest or a conviction;
  • If you are charged with domestic violence, elder abuse or child abuse, then the prosecutor can introduce evidence that you have committed similar crimes in the past (within 10 years); AND
  • If you have committed a crime of dishonesty or there is other evidence of your dishonesty, this evidence can be introduce to show your lack of trustworthiness.

Importantly, there are specific rules that must be followed for each exception. For example, if the prosecutor wants to introduce evidence of previous allegations of sexual assault, then your criminal defense attorney Riverside, CA could argue that this information should be excluded because its value is outweighed by the prejudice that it would create against the defendant or because it would confuse the issues or mislead the jury.

For crimes of dishonesty or other issues related to dishonesty, you will likely need to make a strategic decision with your criminal defense attorney Riverside, CA. If you do not testify at trial, then the prosecution cannot introduce evidence of your past convictions for a crime of dishonesty (such as forgery). While the decision to testify is your decision to make, your lawyer can help you make the best choice for your legal defense based on the facts of your case.

The rules of evidence are complicated, with many exceptions. That is why it is so important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney Riverside, CA to represent you. The Chambers Law Firm defends clients who have been charged with a range of California criminal offenses. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

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