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Past Bad Acts

Generally, evidence of past bad acts by a criminal defendant is not admissible to prove that the defendant is a bad person and therefore committed the crime charged. However, evidence of past bad acts will be admitted for other purposes such as to show motive, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of a mistake or accident. Such evidence is also admissible for IMPEACHMENT purposes, (for example, if a defendant takes the stand) and when a defendant seeks to introduce the evidence in his or her defense.

In Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 120 S.Ct. 1851, 146 L.Ed.2d 826 (U.S.Cal., May 22, 2000) (NO. 98-9828), the defendant Ohler was tried for importation of marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. After the trial court granted the government's motion to admit evidence of her previous conviction for methamphetamine possession, as impeachment evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)(1), Ohler decided to bring out her prior conviction under direct examination, in order to "remove the sting" from the prosecutor's possible elicitation of the conviction on cross-examination. (Under the trial court's ruling, the prior conviction was only admissible in the event that Ohler testified.) The jury convicted Ohler on both counts, and she appealed, claiming that the trial court erred in admitting her prior conviction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court affirmed her conviction, holding that Ohler had waived her objection to the evidence by introducing it herself.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Estate for years to Ex proprio motu (ex mero motu)Evidence - Witnesses, Expert Witnesses, Hearsay, Objections, Nonevidentiary Objections, Authentication And Identification, Polygraph Tests