Are Prior Convictions Admissible in Court in Arizona?

Are Prior Convictions Admissible in Court in Arizona

Are Prior Convictions Admissible in Court in Arizona?

In the 2020 Arizona Court of Appeals case, the State of Arizona v. Lonney Mc Coy, one main issue was whether a criminal defendant’s prior convictions are admissible in a new criminal trial. This issue faces many defendants in Arizona criminal trials. Whether or not a defendant’s prior convictions are admissible in a new trial is covered under the rules of evidence in Arizona. In any criminal case, the rules of evidence govern what evidence is admissible. Under Arizona Rule of Evidence 609, a defendant’s past conviction is only admissible, and relevant, in certain situations.

In general, a defendant’s prior criminal record of convictions is not relevant to a current criminal case in the state of Arizona. If, however, the defendant makes the decision to testify in their new criminal case, they become a witness. Arizona Rule of Evidence 609 comes into play as it specifies when, and how, a witness can be impeached by their past criminal convictions. However, if the defendant decides to testify, they then become a witness. This rule therefore applies to both criminal defendants who are witnesses in their own case, as well as to non-defendant witnesses.

A prior conviction is only admissible if it falls into certain criteria. If a prior conviction was for a crime that is punishable by “death or by imprisonment for more than one year,” that conviction must be admitted into a defendant’s new criminal trial if the probative value of that conviction overrides any prejudicial effects it has upon the defendant.

If a prior conviction is for a crime involving dishonesty, the only thing that must be shown in order for that conviction to be admissible into a defendant’s new criminal case is that an element of that prior crime forces the prosecution to prove that the defendant made a false statement or committed a dishonest act.

In the case of whether a defendant’s older convictions are admissible in a new criminal case in Arizona, other rules apply. Convictions that are over ten years old (or if it has been over ten years since the defendant’s release from prison, whichever is later) are only admissible if two conditions apply:

  • The probative value of the prior conviction must greatly override its prejudicial effect upon the defendant.
  • The person seeking for this prior conviction to be admissible to this proceeding must give the other party enough notice to be able to contest the admission of this evidence.

In the State of Arizona v. Lonney McCoy, the original trial court granted the defendant’s motion to keep a 2014 conviction for domestic violence assault (which is a Class 6 felony) out of the defendant’s new trial. The prosecution appealed this decision, however, stating that the original trial judge had not applied the correct standard in granting the defendant’s motion to ban the prior conviction from the new trial. The appeals court agreed with the prosecution, stating that the lower court had applied the wrong standard in determining the prior conviction’s admissibility to the new case. The Arizona Court of Appeals thus reversed the lower Arizona court’s decision, paving the way for the prosecution to admit evidence of the defendant’s past conviction for domestic violence into the new trial.

If You Have Been Arrested and Charged for a Crime in Arizona

Have you recently been arrested and charged with a crime in Arizona? If so, contact our Arizona Criminal Defense Law Firm to help you. We can help to determine whether your prior convictions, if any exist, are admissible in your current criminal case. Our attorneys have much experience handling criminal defense cases of all types, including but not limited to violent crimes, sex offenses, and more. Contact us for a free consultation today.