Can Your Past Criminal Convictions Be Used Against You in Court? The Answer is Complicated

Can Your Past Criminal Convictions Be Used Against You in Court? The Answer is Complicated

Being accused of a crime can be quite stressful. It may be more difficult to defend yourself against criminal charges if you have a criminal background. You could feel stuck even if you are innocent of the present accusations; how can you defend yourself if you have a criminal record? Is your criminal background admissible as evidence in the case against you?

Keep reading to learn more and then contact Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 to speak to a criminal defense attorney who can help you.

Your past convictions could be used against you

The presentation of character evidence is often forbidden by California’s evidentiary laws. This means that the prosecution cannot use evidence of wrongdoings you have previously committed (whether or not they were crimes) to show that you committed the alleged crime. For instance, it is usually not admissible as proof that someone who was fired from a job for allegedly stealing supplies but was never charged with a felony also committed the crime of child abuse.

There are exceptions to this law, as there are to many others. A prosecution may occasionally present evidence of your bad character. If you present evidence of your good character, the prosecution may counter it by presenting evidence of your bad character. The prosecutor may add evidence of your aggressive nature if you present proof of the victim’s violent nature.

Whether or not there was an arrest or conviction, the prosecutor may present evidence that you have previously committed additional sex offenses if you are accused of one in California.

The prosecutor may provide evidence that you have previously (within ten years) committed offenses comparable to those for which you are accused if you are accused of domestic violence, elder abuse, or child abuse and it is possible to present evidence to demonstrate your lack of reliability if you have committed a crime of dishonesty or if there is other proof of your dishonesty.

There are limits to how your criminal history could be used against you

Importantly, each exemption has a set of guidelines that must be followed. For instance, if the prosecutor wants to present evidence of prior allegations of sexual assault, your criminal defense lawyer may argue that it should not be admitted because the prejudice it would foster against the defendant outweighs its value, or because it would cloud the issues or lead the jury astray.

You’ll probably need to work strategically with your attorney for crimes of dishonesty or other relevant matters. The prosecution cannot present evidence of your prior convictions for a dishonest act if you refuse to testify at trial (such as forgery). While the choice to testify is ultimately yours, your lawyer can advise you on the best course of action for your legal defense given the particulars of your case.

There are many exceptions to the complicated standards of evidence. Because of this, it is crucial that you get the services of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Chambers Law Firm represents individuals who are accused of a variety of criminal charges in California. For a free initial consultation, call us at 714-760-4088 or email dchambers@clfca.com right now.

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