Witness With a Prior Felony

There are times when you need to get certain evidence excluded from a lawsuit. Perhaps there is a witness with a prior felony, alcohol abuse, or perhaps you have a checkered history. There are ways of preventing these topics from ever being heard by a jury.

The Problem

There are certain types of evidence that obviously you don’t want the jury to hear when you’re going to a trial. Suppose you know you had some felony 30 years ago. Or suppose that you have that you know a person has a drug abuse history alcohol abuse history, some abusive relationship history. That is important stuff that you know might not be relevant to a case so you want to not have a jury hear that. For example, let’s say there was a slip and fall case. One of the witnesses to the property are in their 60s and they had they had a couple felonies from maybe 30 years ago 40 years ago. Perhaps the witness with a prior criminal history did something terrible like armed robbery.

The Solution

So what the attorney will probably want to do is file a motion in limine (generally a motion to try and prevent the jury from hearing certain things) to try to get that excluded. The felony may be so remote in time and if a jury hears this then it’s going to mischaracterize this person. Perhaps this person has changed they haven’t had a felony in 30-40 years. Also the jury might look at this person like, “oh we shouldn’t believe what they said because they had this felony from so long ago.” In a prior trial that Roven was involved in, the judge ruled that the felony is out: that topic could not be discussed in front of a jury. This can be very helpful to a case, perhaps it can help settle a case when the defense isn’t able to mischaracterize certain witnesses. Defense attorneys want to point witnesses that are bad for their case as anything bad that they can. So if someone has a prior felony, the defense may want to point out this witness with a prior felony to be a crooked felon.

Witness with Prior Alcohol Abuse

Another thing that you might want to prevent a jury hearing about is alcohol abuse. Let’s say you know a witness or if you’re the plaintiff you had a drinking problem perhaps 10-15 years ago. That’s not something necessarily that a jury’s is going to need to hear. So what you might want to do is you know have your attorney (assuming that you have an attorney) if you’re this close to trial file a motion in limine. The motion can explain that you’re sober now (or the witness is) and this alcohol abuse is going to be so prejudicial to your case. People may look at you in a poor light just because of a problem that you had so long ago. The alcohol abuse arguably doesn’t have bearing on the case whatsoever and no bearing on your future. So you probably want to get that excluded so that a jury doesn’t hear it. It’s very important to at least try to keep that kind of evidence out from a jury so that they’re not prejudiced into not believing what you say based on a problem that you or a witness may have had many many years ago.

Tough to “Unring the Bell”

It is important to file motions in limine to try and get evidence out of the eyes and ears of the jury. Once someone mentions something, it’s very hard to unring that bell. This is even if a judge says “please disregard what they said right there about them being an alcoholic.” It’s very hard once a jury hears something to unhear it.