When it comes to the type of evidence that is admissible at trial – especially a criminal trial – not all evidence that favors a party’s position will be admissible. The Michigan Rules of Evidence provide a framework that judges must use to determine whether the jury should hear the evidence offered by a party. As a general rule, only relevant evidence is admissible at trial. When it comes to prior criminal convictions, the general rule is that a conviction is not admissible unless certain criteria are met.
In a recent Michigan sexual assault case, a state appellate court reviewed the trial court’s decision to admit evidence of the defendant’s “prior bad acts.” In this context, a prior bad act is some prior conduct of the defendant that the prosecution intends to present to the jury.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct after allegedly assaulting his adult daughter after she went to bed. The defendant had a previous conviction for criminal sexual conduct. Those allegations stemmed from allegations that the defendant assaulted a nine-year-old girl after she went to sleep. The prosecution sought admission of the defendant’s previous conviction and sentence. Neither the defense nor the prosecution commented on the conviction at trial. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found the defendant guilty.
The defendant appealed, arguing that the admission of the prior bad act evidence was improper because the conviction was more than ten years old.
The Court’s Opinion
On appeal, the court rejected the defendant’s argument. First, the court noted that the defendant did not object at trial, meaning the alleged error was unpreserved for appellate review. Thus, while the court still reviewed the defendant’s claim of error, the standard used by the court was much less favorable to the defendant.
The court began its analysis by noting that the applicable rule of evidence states that, in a sexual assault case, “evidence of the defendant’s commission of other acts of domestic violence or sexual assault is admissible for any purpose for which it is relevant, if it is not otherwise excluded.” The court cited another rule, which stated that evidence of a conviction more than ten years old is inadmissible “unless the court determines that … Admitting the evidence is in the interest of justice.”
Here, the court held that admission of the evidence was “in the interest of justice” for two reasons. First, that the defendant had previously sexually assaulted a young woman. And second, this offense occurred only four months after the defendant was released from prison for the initial offense. As a result, the court held that it was not improper to admit evidence of the defendant’s prior conviction, although it was more than ten years old.
Are You Facing Michigan Sex Assault Charges?
If you have been arrested and charged with a Michigan sex offense, contact Michigan Defense Law. Attorney Paul J. Tafelski, the founder of Michigan Defense Law, is a veteran Michigan criminal defense attorney with extensive experience defending the rights of his clients who face serious allegations. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney at our firm, call 248-451-2200 today.