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» Finest Houston Lawyer: What You Have To Know About Prior Convictions
Finest Houston Lawyer: What You Have To Know About Prior Convictions
Many people wonder why an individual charged with a crime wouldn't testify in their own court trial. The most effective answer is that testifying can open the flood gates to virtually all kinds of detrimental evidence. Such evidence would otherwise be inadmissible. This dangerous step is designated "opening the door." Whether a defendant's prior conviction is admissible in a new criminal case is dependent on a variety of factors. These are the crimes of which the defendant is now accused, whether the defendant within the existing case testified in a previous case, as well as the purpose for which the conviction is asked to be admitted.
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In many situations, if the defendant loses at trial or takes a plea offer, a judge could very well use a defendant's past conviction to reinforce the individual's sentence. Theoretically, this doesn't count as admitting the previous conviction into evidence. The judge has not put the conviction on the record to determine whether the defendant committed the crime within the existing case. The judge has the discretion to use a past conviction to enhance the sentence for the defendant within the current case. If the defendant goes to trial, the sentencing can occur separately from the trial. If the jury leaves before the sentence is imposed, they may never hear that the defendant had a prior conviction.
In many situations, that include DWI cases, a judge may be required by law to enhance a sentence in cases where a defendant has a past conviction for the same type of offense on their record. Typically, prosecutors are particularly zealous. The State quite often seeks to introduce particularly old previous out-of-state convictions to encourage, or require, the judge to enhance a sentence. Many prosecutors also seek to introduce past convictions of severe out-of-state felonies to ask a judge to enhance a sentence.
Except in certain situations, most notably those listed above, a criminal defendant can normally prevent admission of a past conviction by refusing to testify at trial. Typically, whether or not a prosecutor or a defense attorney would like to introduce a defendant's past conviction, they need to notify the court, meaning the judge, of their intention. A prosecutor typically succeeds in getting a prior conviction admitted into evidence if the defendant decides to testify or if the defendant makes the decision to make their character a concern in their case. Typically, a prosecutor cannot introduce a criminal conviction to demonstrate that the defendant has a bad character if the defendant hasn't made his or her character an issue. Additionally, the prosecutor normally can't introduce a criminal conviction to prove that a defendant has or had a propensity to commit criminal offenses.
In cases where a criminal defendant makes a decision to testify, their prior conviction may very well become admissible for purposes of impeaching their credibility. This kind of impeachment asks the judge or jury to question the truthfulness of the defendant's testimony. The general rule is any time a prosecutor or defense lawyer wants to use a prior conviction to impeach a defendant's testimony, the previous conviction has to be for a felony or a crime involving dishonesty. This means that a defendant will likely not be impeached with a prior conviction for a minor offense, such as possession of drug paraphernalia, which has nothing to do with dishonesty.
Even if the defendant decides to testify, a judge won't necessarily rule that a previous conviction is admissible. A good number of courts use a balancing test to ascertain if the prior conviction should be admitted. The judge weighs the probative value of permitting the crime to be introduced contrary to the prejudicial impact on the defendant. If the previous conviction is for a similar criminal offense, the judge will likely determine that the risk is too great. Within these situations, the judge uses the reasoning that the jury will decide, "If this individual did it previously, this individual probably did it this time."
Commonly, a prosecutor or defense attorney can ask that a prior conviction or set of convictions be admitted as evidence of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.
Considering the fact that the admissibility of prior convictions is an issue of evidence, it is deemed an issue of law. Constitutional amendments and proposed bills can impact the evidence rules. It is imperative that if you are fighting criminal charges, you get in touch with a qualified criminal defense attorney. The Finest Houston Criminal Defense Attorney is going to be able to evaluate your record and will know how the rules pertaining to prior convictions may affect you. They will be able to advise you on the pros and cons of testifying. Only you can make the final decision.
If you have previous convictions and have been arrested or are under investigation for a criminal offense in Texas, get in touch with the Finest Houston Attorney as soon as possible - and protect your legal rights and reputation.
Article Source: Articles For Knowledge Sharing
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The writer enjoys sharing information about Criminal Defense issues.
In the event you or a family member have been arrested recently and require knowledgeable assistance, get in touch with the Finest Houston Criminal Lawyer
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Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 -
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