Many people know that, in a federal criminal case in New York, the general rule is that the prosecution may not introduce evidence of previous bad acts by the defendant in order to prove that the defendant committed the bad acts alleged against him in the current case. (As with many other rules of evidence, there are exceptions and qualifications to this rule.)
In a recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Court clarifies some points about this rule. During trial, the prosecution had introduced and emphasized testimony that the defendant was previously known to police officers, who were able to recognize the defendant by sight. The prosecution argued on appeal that it had only introduced evidence that police officers recognized the defendant, not that defendant was known to police because of anything bad he had previously done. The Court stated that the rule prohibits the introduction of evidence of extrinsic acts that can reflect badly on the defendant’s character. So, even though the government did not come out and directly say that the defendant is known to police officers because he is a shady character, this is the impression that the jury would have gotten. Because the testimony had no other value in proving any facts relevant to the case, it should not have been admitted.
It is important to note that a successful appeal, such as in the above case, almost always depends on the issues being “preserved” for appeal. This means that the trial attorney must, at the very least, state any objections on the record, at the proper times during the trial. Appeals courts will not review issues which are raised for the first time on appeal.
Thus, it is important for anyone fighting a New York federal criminal case to have an attorney who is knowledgeable about both the substantial and the technical issues of your case, and who will be able to properly protect your rights. This way, even if you lose your case due to a mistaken ruling, your attorney will ensure that all objections are promptly and properly raised, ensuring that all necessary issues can be raised during the appeal.
If you are charged with a federal crime in New York, you should retain an experienced federal criminal defense attorney with expertise in both the substantive and the procedural issues of a New York federal criminal case. Call our experienced New York criminal defense attorneys at (212) 577-6677 to schedule an immediate consultation.