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Character evidence: inadmissibility and exceptions

When facing criminal charges, defendants have a lot to think about. There are, of course, the potential penalties and the determination of whether to plea bargain, but, if a matter goes to trial, even more complicated issues can arise. The rules of evidence are complex, and failing to have a firm grasp on them can lead to a defendant being taken advantage of during trial and limiting their options on appeal. Therefore, Michiganders facing allegations of criminal wrongdoing should ensure that they or their criminal defense attorney know how to use the rules of evidence to their advantage.

One way to do so is to utilize or object to certain types of character evidence. Generally speaking, character evidence cannot be admitted to prove that an individual acted in that same way at another time. However, there are exceptions. For example, if a defendant admits character evidence regarding their own character, then the prosecution may, too, enter evidence regarding the defendant’s character. In a case involving self-defense, a defendant can admit evidence regarding aggression as it relates to the victim’s character.

There are other exceptions to the character evidence rule. In cases involving criminal sexual conduct, evidence of the victim’s past sexual contact with the accused as well as character evidence that speaks to the source or origin of pregnancy, semen or disease may be deemed admissible.

It is important to note that evidence will only be disallowed if it is objected to. Therefore, criminal defendants and their legal team need to be on their toes and be ready to object and respond to objections. A skilled attorney may be well suited to assist an individual with this and other legal tasks.

Source: courts.mi.gov, “Michigan Rules of Evidence,” accessed on July 1, 2016

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