Is Your Criminal Record Admissible in Court?

Hey, what’s up? I’m attorney Derek Gray of McMinn, Logan & Gray. We are a criminal law firm located here in Winston Salem, North Carolina, and this is our FAQ series. So today’s question deals with evidence admissibility. Specifically, the question is, is my criminal record admissible at trial?

So, like we always do to answer that question, we start with the law itself. In North Carolina, our rules of evidence are housed under Chapter 8C-1. And specifically, the rule is 609. As a former prosecutor, one of the questions that was drilled into my brain, and that I asked, you know, anytime I had an opportunity to cross-examine a defendant, and sometimes I would even ask my own witness, the question went like this —what have you been convicted of within the last 10 years that carries a maximum sentence of 60 days or more? That question really encompasses the key elements of rule 609.

So specifically, convictions that are 10 years or younger are admissible to the extent that is a Class 2 misdemeanor or higher. So Class 3 misdemeanor and your lower level of traffic stuff will not be admissible at trial. Furthermore, you’re only allowed to ask this question for purposes of impeaching credibility or bolstering it, but you’re not allowed to show propensity evidence, as we call it.

So essentially, if you’ve done it before, i.e, you’re charged for breaking and entering, and you have a breaking and entering in your history. Therefore, you’re more likely to have committed this one. So the court will sustain an objection and not allow that evidence to come in if it’s shown to be trying to be used for propensity evidence. Now, the reality of it is, if a jury hears you have a B&E on your record and you’re charged with B&E, you’re not going to have to say much more than that.

So strategically, a lot of attorneys will get that question out that will show propensity without actually placing it under propensity. But to answer the question, yes, your criminal record is admissible. In a trial setting, only the previous 10 years only charges that are a Class 2 misdemeanor or higher.

So that means fail, all felony charges will be admissible that you’ve been convicted of in the last 10 years. And then all misdemeanors Class 2 and higher. The last caveat is if you were convicted of a charge that had you in prison, and which is older than 10 years, but you were released from prison within the last 10 years. They’ll also be able to ask you specifically about that conviction as well. But I hope that answers your question.

If you have any further questions about the admissibility of evidence or the admissibility of criminal records and how they can be used at trial. Don’t hesitate to leave a question below or reach out to us. I’d love to talk about it and love to have a discussion. Y’all take care.

Author Bio

Derek M. Gray

Derek Gray is a Partner of McMinn, Logan & Gray, a North Carolina criminal defense law firm. With more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Derek received his Juris Doctor from the North Carolina Central School of Law in 2007 and is a member of the North Carolina State Bar Association. With his experience as a former Assistant District Attorney, he has represented more than 1,000 criminal defense clients in North Carolina and received more than 100 5-star Google ratings.

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