Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer > Blog > Criminal > When Is “Character Evidence” Admissible in a Florida Criminal Case?

When Is “Character Evidence” Admissible in a Florida Criminal Case?


A criminal trial is about whether or not the accused committed the crime alleged by the government. It is not a forum for deciding whether or not the defendant is a bad person. For that reason, Florida law generally prohibits prosecutors from introducing “[e]vidence of a person’s character or trait of character” to prove they committed the alleged offense.

As with most general rules, however, there are exceptions. One such exception is that if the defendant is charged with a “sexual offense,” the state can introduce “evidence of the defendant’s commission of other crimes, wrongs, or acts involving a sexual offense.” And the jury is allowed to consider such evidence “for its bearing on any matter to which it is related.”

Florida Man Found Guilty of 2007 Rape, Murder After Jury Hears About 1986 Conviction

A recent decision from the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals, Jackson v. State, illustrates how this exception can affect a suspect’s ability to defend themselves in court. In this case, the state charged a defendant with the rape and murder of a woman. The victim’s body was found near her workplace by her co-workers. This occurred in 2007. Police subsequently arrested and charged the defendant with the crime.

Although a jury found the defendant guilty, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction in 2012 and ordered a new trial. At the re-trial, the state introduced evidence of another crime involving the defendant, specifically a 1986 sexual battery conviction. The defendant served 13 years in prison for that crime and was still on probation in 2007 when he was charged with rape and murder.

The defense moved to exclude any evidence related to the 1986 rape, but the trial court found it admissible. The jury heard from the 1986 victim. The trial judge instructed the jury it could consider this testimony “for the limited purpose of proving opportunity, intent, plan, identity and lack of consent” with respect to the 2007 allegations.

The second jury found the defendant guilty. On appeal, the defendant reiterated his objection to the jury hearing evidence of his 1986 conviction. The Fifth District found no legal error, however, and affirmed the conviction. The appellate court noted there were a number of “similarities” between the two crimes, including the fact both victims were young women who were raped “in the early morning hours while the victims wither were or appeared to be alone.” And while the crimes were not identical, there was enough “in common” for the evidence of the earlier conviction to be admissible under Florida law.

Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today

In their zeal to convict persons accused of sexually based offenses, Florida prosecutors are often quick to introduce potential evidence of “prior bad acts.” That is why if you are the person who stands accused, you need to work with an experienced Orlando sex crimes defense attorney who will preserve and protect your constitutional rights. Call the Joshi Law Firm, PA, at 844-GO-JOSHI today or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team.




Facebook Twitter LinkedIn