How Does My Criminal Record Affect My New Criminal Case?

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Defense Attorneys Fighting for Rights of Individuals with Previous Criminal Records in New Mexico

criminal caseEvidence of prior criminal acts are not usually useable in court to demonstrate your bad character or propensity to commit crimes. The reason New Mexico courts do not allow such evidence is because it is particularly biased and can sway a jury in favor of the prosecution based on nothing more than a person’s history. After all, it makes sense that a jury would convict a defendant for an act because he or she has a history of criminal behavior; it is assumed that he or she was obviously guilty this time.

Cases in the Past Dealing with the Issue

Under the New Mexico Supreme Court Case of State v. Serna, the case dealt with an issue just like this. The court had to decide if Rule 404(B) in the New Mexico Rules of Evidence would prevent the admission of prior bad acts in a case for a New Mexico Controlled Substances Act (ICSA). Once the issues were presented, the court had to decide if the admission of these acts was innocent or harmful to the case.

The Rules of Evidence and How They Apply

In the case of State v. Serna, the courts determined that under the ICSA, the prior convictions were only admissible if they were allowed under the basic rules of evidence. So, for evidence to be acceptable under the ICSA, it would need to be permissible under the Rules of Evidence.

How the Rules of Evidence Address Prior Criminal History

Under 404(B), within the Rules of Evidence for the state, it was stated that prior criminal acts are prohibited if they are used to prove a person’s character, or basically showing that the person is capable of similar criminal acts.

However, the same rules state that evidence of criminal acts in the past are admissible in other ways, such as:

  • Proving motive
  • Establishing opportunity
  • Showing intent
  • Showing the criminal defendant’s preparation and plan
  • Showing that the defendant had knowledge
  • Proving there was a lack of accident defense in this case

What Does This Mean for Your Case?

Do you have past criminal convictions? In most cases, those criminal convictions will not be presented as evidence against you, but those past convictions could be used during your sentencing. After all, there are criminal acts that have harsher punishments for first, second, third, and subsequent offenses. For example, with a drunken driving offense, your prior acts are admissible and may be used to enhance the penalties you would face if convicted.

Also, there have been instances where the prosecution can use evidence of criminal acts in the past, but they are not used as a significant component to the case against the defense. Therefore, the courts may allow this passive aggressive technique for showing your character.

Your Best Defense? Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

The Rules of Evidence are complex; therefore, it is in your best interest to contact a criminal defense lawyer who understands how the rules apply to cases, and what your best defense strategy may be. To explore your options, contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today at 505-375-4661 or request more information online.