Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyer on Williams Rule Character Evidence Codified in Florida Statute 90.404.
As a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Sarasota, clients often want to know what types of evidence can be admitted during a criminal trial. As a general rule and pursuant to Florida law, evidence of an individual’s character is not admissible to prove that because they committed a similar crime in the past they did so again. In a trial about vandalism, for example, the prosecution cannot offer evidence of a person’s prior graffiti incident to claim that he or she has the propensity to vandalize and therefore did so on this occasion. The reason this rule exists is to avoid unfair so that the defendant can be judged by his or her present conduct and not conduct that occurred in the past.
However, there are certain instances under Florida Law where the prosecution can try to introduce evidence of prior bad acts to show motive, intent, knowledge, modus operandi, or lack of mistake. The admissibility of this evidence is at the discretion of the trial judge and is determined at a hearing prior to the trial.
Florida law also provides that in a criminal case when a person is charged with child molestation, evidence of the person’s other crimes or acts of child molestation is admissible and considered relevant. A child, pursuant to this law, is an individual under the age of sixteen. Furthermore, if a person is charged with a sex crime evidence of other sex crimes committed by the same person is admissible and considered relevant. The prosecutor would have to request a motion hearing and the trial judge would make a ruling on the admissibility of the evidence.
Florida law also requires the prosecution provide notice to a Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyer no less than ten days prior to trial if they intend on introducing a prior crime or bad act. The State must furnish to the defendant or his or her defense lawyer a written statement of the acts or offenses they intend to offer at trial and provide details of the incident.
Once the evidence of the prior offense is admitted, the judge is required to provide a limiting instruction to the jury indicating how the similar fact evidence is to be considered.
Florida law was codified in the case of Williams v. State. In 1996 David Williams, Jr. was driving home in his police car when he noticed a man walking away from a closed business carrying several cases of soda. Officer Williams turned his car around and drove towards the man when he noticed that the man had put the soda cases down and was walking away. Officer Williams requested the man to stop but he started to run away so Officer Williams began chase. The man escaped but Officer Williams recognized his face from a prior personal encounter. Several months later, Officer Williams learnt that the same man was in jail for a burglary charge based on an incident that occurred in the same area as the soda case incident he observed. Despite opposition from the defendant, the jury was allowed to use this previous observation by Officer Williams as evidence that he may have committed the later burglary.
If you have further questions of the admissibility of evidence during trial contact an experienced Sarasota criminal defense lawyer today by calling 941.893.5816.