My cousin got a DUI last week. He insists he was only arrested because of his prior driving record which includes 2 prior DUI's. If he takes it to trial will the jury be able to hear about his prior DUI's? Thanks
The answer is it depends. In general, prior bad acts do not get introduced to the jury. There are a couple of exceptions that could apply here. First, your cousin will likely be charged with DUI 2 Prior Convictions, a felony. The trial would go as if it were a regular DUI trial and the jury would likely not know about the priors. IF the jury comes back guilty for the DUI, THEN the state would introduce evidence of the 2 prior convictions in order to convince the jury that he is guilty of DUI with 2 priors. So those 2 priors come in to prove the elements of the crime but only after the jury finds him guilty of regular DUI first. If he is found not guilty of the DUI then the trial is over and won't proceed to the second phase. Note: this second phase of the trial is not sentencing, the state must still prove the applicable elements to the jury.
A second way the prior DUI convictions could come up is IF your cousin takes the stand. He could be impeached with the prior convictions if he tries to say that he would never do anything like drive under the influence (or if he brought it up by saying he pled to those cases because he admitted his guilt but he is innocent in this case).
Finally, it is possible, though difficult, for the state to use what is called the "Williams Rule." This is when the state tries to introduce similar fact evidence in order to prove motive or modus opperandi. It is very difficult for the state to be allowed to introduce this kind of evidence. There would be a notice provided by the state of its intent to use Williams Rule evidence and the judge would have to agree. Its pretty difficult for this to happen but it is possible.
Your cousin is facing a felony that has a mandatory adjudication and jail time, aside from the license revocation. He needs an attorney to review the case, go over his options, and attempt to resolve the case.
Generally, the jury will not hear about your cousin's prior DUI convictions. According to the Florida rules of evidence, prior bad acts are generally inadmissible as they often bear little if any relevance to the current charge and their introduction is highly prejudical. Telling the jury of your cousin's prior bad acts would add no value to the state's case other than showing that he has a "propensity" to commit DUI. The rules guard against a jury convicting someone solely based on their propensity to commit crimes.
Your cousin needs to retain an experienced Florida DUI attorney. Usually prior convictions go to sentencing and are brought up during that phase, often only to the judge, HOWEVER, in other circumstance this is admissible, depending on the facts. Your cousin needs to retain an attorney now.
I truly wish you the best.
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