Prior Conviction Can Be Used Against Someone

Prior Conviction Can Be Used Against Someone in Certain Circumstances

supreme courtPrior conviction can be used against someone in certain circumstances. The case of United States v Collins (decided August 24, 2015) addressed permitting the discrediting of a defendant with a prior 15 year old misdemeanor conviction for filing a false name to a police officer. The rules of evidence apply a balancing test to determine the use of prior convictions. The court decided, “[w]here a prior conviction is more than 10 years old, the conviction should be rarely admitted and only if the court finds that the probative value substantially outweighs the prejudical effect. In making this assessment, the court must consider the following:  (1) the impeachment value; (2) the point in time of the conviction and the witness’ subsequent history; (3) the similarity between the crime and the current charge; (4) the importance of the witness’ testimony; and (5) the centrality of the credibility issue.”  The court determined that this prior offense should not have been used. However, the error was harmless because there was substantial other evidence of guilt.

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