In a criminal trial, the evidence the jury sees is crucial. For this reason, a defense attorney makes many tactical decisions regarding your case. In any criminal case, a defense attorney will argue that certain evidence is not admissible.
The arguments your defense attorney will put forward are numerous, but a few examples are that:
- police conducted an unlawful search,
- coerced a confession by not following Miranda rules,
- obtained evidence in some other illegal manner requiring the evidence to be excluded
Your defense attorney can argue a number of items are not admissible, in what are known as motion-in-limine hearings, which are conducted in pre-trial motions, which occur long before a jury is selected.
Why Is Character Evidence Generally Excluded?
The general rule is that character is not relevant to whether someone committed a crime or not. For example, if an individual is known to steal cars for joyrides, it doesn’t mean that he is responsible for every car stolen. Therefore, the prosecution has the burden of proving that he stole the actual car at issue in the case.
When Can the Prosecutor Introduce Character Evidence?
However, once all this posturing is done and the case actually goes to trial, a defense attorney has a major decision to make. This decision involves whether or not to introduce the Defendant’s character into evidence. If the defendant does community service, saved kids from a burning building, and is generally a saint, the Defense attorney will likely want to discuss his or her client’s character with the jury. However, once the Defense attorney “opens the door,” then the door cannot be closed. The prosecution can point out the flaws in the defendant’s character and attack with impunity.
There are some exceptions to character evidence, such as criminal convictions, but for the most part character evidence is not admissible by the prosecution. However, one of the most important exceptions is that if the defense attorney decides to discuss character, so can the prosecution.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
The tactical decision of whether or not to introduce character evidence is a major decision, and why it is so important for anyone facing criminal charges to find the right criminal defense lawyer.