How Courts View Past Criminal Behavior
If you have been charged and convicted of a criminal offense and find yourself charged again and facing a court, admissible convictions in court can impact your current case. In cases where you are charged with the same offense, your penalties may be greater. Even in cases where your past conviction is unrelated, it can still impact your credibility and identity.
How Courts Will View Your Past Criminal Behavior in Court
South Carolina rules of evidence do not allow your past record to be used as evidence of your character. If you have a criminal record, prosecutors cannot claim the past shows you tend to commit offenses. However, past criminal records and your presentence report can be used to establish motive, intent or a common plan.
If your past offenses are in any way linked to the current charges against you, prosecutors can usually have them admitted as evidence. Also, prior evidence of a crime may be used to establish identity. For example, if a plaintiff used a similar method or wore similar clothing in past criminal activity, this evidence may be admitted in court.
In other situations, your criminal history may be viewed in court to establish you knew enough to prevent a current course of action from being in error. For example, if a defendant alleges he could not have committed the offense he is currently charged with because he does not know how to enter and start up a car illegally, the court will generally admit evidence of past car theft, which shows the defendant does know how to perform such an act.
What to Do If You Have a Past Criminal Record and Are Going to Court Again
Jurors are supposed to be impartial when considering your case. In many cases, past criminal records are not admissible. However, many prosecutors do try to get prior convictions included in your case.
If you have any criminal convictions in the past, no matter how minor or unrelated to your current charges you feel they are, discuss them with your criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can determine whether there is any likelihood this evidence will be admissible and take steps to ensure it is not presented in court. Your attorney can also seek to have the evidence excluded to ensure it does not cause prejudice against you in court.
Can Prior Convictions Be Used in Court?
The short answer is that some convictions can be used in court, but an experienced attorney can seek to have them excluded. If you have made a mistake or have been arrested, contact Thurmond, Kirchner and Timbes, Attorneys at Law for a consultation. Our entire legal team has proven results across South Carolina. Our firm is small to ensure flexibility and personal responsiveness, but we have the resources and skill sets usually reserved for larger firms. Our team offers reasonable solutions and works hard with aggressive representation to move toward the best possible outcome in your case.