What is rule about my prior criminal history in trial?

Asked about 1 year ago - Chicago, IL

I was wondering if a case was set for trial, if my prior criminal conviction can come into the evidence and how? Will they know the specific crime I was convicted of?

Attorney answers (5)

  1. Ken Wang

    Contributor Level 8

    9

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . I disagree with everybody that has posted so far except Mr. James.

    Previous criminal convictions(and arrests) are generally not admissible at trial. That is called "propensity evidence". However, there are several exceptions. A judge has the discretion to admit other criminal acts in the following main exceptions (among others):
    1. The matter is a prior felony conviction within ten years.
    2. The matter is a prior conviction for deception.
    3. The evidence is not being admitted for propensity purposes, but is instead being admitted for some other purpose such as knowledge, intent, motive, or modus oprandi.
    4. There is a specific statutory provision which allows admission of other crimes evidence, which generally exist in sex crimes or domestic violence crimes.

    If the Court rules evidence of a prior conviction is admissible, it is generally by agreement that the type and date of the conviction is allowed in. The "mere fact" that you are a convict is an improper way to use a prior conviction.

    Evidence of prior criminal history that is not an element of the offense is generally inadmissible at trial. For example, at trial on a felony third time DUI, evidence of two prior DUI's is generally not admissible. That is a matter for sentencing, not a matter of evidence for the jury. There is actually a specific statutory provision that prohibits evidence of prior convictions if it is just a sentencing enhancement, as opposed to being an element of the offense - such as felon in possession of a firearm has as an element of the offense that you are a felon.

    I strongly suggest you talk to your defense attorney if you have other questions. This type of question is very difficult, and should not be addressed over an open web forum. There are a lot of individual factors that a judge will weigh before deciding whether other prior criminal acts will be arrested.

    Source: See Illinois Rules of Evidence 404(b) and 609.

  2. Matthew Scott James

    Contributor Level 11

    5

    Lawyers agree

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    Answered . It depends on what you're charged with, what your prior criminal history was, and whether or not you testify. All of these factors can influence whether your prior criminal conviction can come in, and how. I hope that if you have an upcoming trial, you have an attorney that can answer these questions.

    My answers are for informational purposes only. They are not legal advice and do not create an attorney-client... more
  3. J. Richard Kulerski

    Contributor Level 20

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Only convictions are considered; arrests don't count. However, even convictions are not admissible, as such, during trial.

  4. Brian Thomas Dailey

    Contributor Level 11

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I disagree with the first answer. I think that under rules of evidence that the prosecutor can introduce evidence of other bad acts. They have to be substantially similar to the charge you are currently facing. That is of course a judgment call by the Judge. The other place they are admissible is if you have been charged as an habitual offender. In order to convict as an habitual offender the prosecutor has to prove the other prior convictions. Finally, if you are convicted of the current charge the Judge can review the prior convictions in fashioning an appropriate sentence.

  5. Alexander M. Ivakhnenko

    Contributor Level 20

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I would state this, if you wonder about the Rules of Evidence as applicable to your criminal case, you must retain a competent criminal counsel. It is not a luxury for you, but a vital necessity, unless you enjoy a bad Russian roulette with your future.

    DISCLAIMER The answer given above by the lawyer serves for educational purposes only and provides general... more

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