Evidence plays a major role in criminal trials. They can make or break a charge, and determine a person’s guilt or innocence. Even the smallest piece of evidence can drastically change the course of any hearing.
Various types of evidence exist, and each of them can affect the proceedings in various ways. A unique type of evidence that shows up in certain cases is the character evidence, which is directly related to the parties involved in a case. Let’s look at character evidence in more detail.
Defining Character Evidence
Character evidence is simply material pertaining to a party’s personality, behavior, or personal character. It is often presented to justify how the party acted a certain way during the alleged crime. Both the defense and the prosecution can provide this to refute or support their testimony or that of their witnesses.
As with all other aspects of a criminal trial, character evidence has to follow particular conditions to be admissible in court. The overseeing rules related to this fall under Federal Rules of Evidence section 404. As a general rule, admissibility of this type of evidence is affected by:
- the purpose of the evidence
- the form that the evidence is offered in
- the type of trial it is to be presented in (civil vs criminal hearing)
- the party presenting the evidence
Character Evidence and Las Vegas Courts
Nevada statutes have additional rules regarding the admissibility of character evidence in court. They have different setups depending on whether the evidence relates to the defendant, the plaintiff, or a witness.
- Defendants are allowed to present character evidence to refute any charges against them. In fact, all character evidence cannot be submitted to the court before the defense provides their own first. However, some situations allow the prosecution to present character evidence even before the defense can do so. Examples include when the defense pleads insanity or accuses the arresting officers of entrapment.
- The defense can submit character evidence to show that the plaintiff’s character is not without reproach in regards to the case. The prosecution can only offer rebuttals against the character evidence against the plaintiff if that is the only thing offered by the defense. If the defense does not provide character evidence in their favor, the prosecution cannot offer counter-evidence to it. These rules do not apply in a sex crime case, however.
- Witnesses are always at risk of facing character evidence from the opposing party. During cross-examination, the inquiring counsel can offer evidence of prior inconsistencies regarding a witness’s testimony or personality with regards to the case.
How It Concerns the Defense
As stated earlier, the defense must offer character defense supporting themselves or discrediting the prosecution before the latter can offer their own character evidence. Meanwhile, witnesses will always deal with character evidence claims, whether or not the defense has provided it already. This is the reason why defendants choose not to go to the witness stand if they can help it; the prosecution will use everything in their power to weed out inconsistencies from the defendant.
All in all, character evidence is a major factor in determining how the case can go. If used carelessly, it can destroy the defense’s case and can easily lead to a guilty verdict. Using it against the prosecution at the wrong time can instead benefit the latter.
Do not ignore the importance of character evidence in a case. It can seriously affect the outcome of a trial, no matter how minor it is. Consult a Las Vegas defense attorney about the relevance of character evidence to your criminal charge.