Proof of Other Crimes in Sex Cases
When an individual is charged with a sex offense in Illinois, there are many evidentiary issues that can arise during the course of the case. One evidentiary issue that frequently arises in a case involving a sex offense is an evidentiary concept known as Proof of Other Crimes.
Law and Concept of Proof of Other CrimesPursuant to 725 ILCS 5/115-7.3 of the Illinois Rules of Evidence, Proof of Other Crimes allows for possible admission of evidence of past sex offenses which can be used against an individual at trial. These offenses can either be past charges where the individual was convicted or pleaded guilty. These offenses can also be charges where the individual was acquitted at trial. These offenses can also even be offenses that were previously investigated and never charged.
The concept behind this type of evidence was to allow Prosecutors to have past conduct permitted to show the Defendant has a "propensity" to commit a sex crime. While the rules of evidence typically prohibit the admission of "propensity evidence," this evidentiary exception was created to aid in the prosecution of sex crimes. This typically helps the prosecution strengthen their case against a defendant where the evidence is "weak" or typically is a "he said" "she said" case.
Admission, Analysis & ArgumentTo have this evidence admitted, the State must give notice to the defense of the specific past conduct they are seeking to have admitted in trial. The State must also file a formal written motion and have an evidentiary hearing. The Judge then decides whether the evidence should be admitted or not. There are certain conditions that must be met in order for the evidence to be admitted against an individual at trial.
The court must conduct a very detailed and careful analysis to determine if the past conduct should be admitted into evidence. The court must determine whether the probative value of the evidence outweighs any prejudicial effect it could have on the factfinder (Judge or Jury). There are three factors the court must consider when weighing its probative value against any prejudicial effect this evidence could have upon the fact finder in trial. These factors include:
(1) the proximity in time to the charged or predicate offense;
(2) the degree of factual similarity to the charged or predicate offense; or
(3) other relevant facts and circumstances
A defense attorney will typically argue that the Proof of Other Crimes evidence's prejudicial effect will outweigh any probative value. While the overarching concept would lead one to believe that the proof of other crimes evidence would always be found to prejudicial, that unfortunately is not the case. In a majority of these cases, Judges allow this type of evidence to be used against an individual at trial despite the inherent notion of unfairness that this evidence often presents.
ConclusionProof of Other Crimes is a very complex evidentiary concept that must be opposed diligently and thoroughly by an experienced criminal defense attorney. A detailed analysis and the development of concise arguments can be key to successfully overcoming these motions in an evidentiary hearing.