DA Attempting to Use Prior DWI in Vehicular Manslaughter Trial
A York, Pennsylvannia District Attorney is planning to introduce evidence of a prior DWI and alcohol classes during the trial of man now charged with several charges including vehicular manslaughter. The DA disclosed his intention to use this evidence during a pretrial conference with the judge and defense attorney.
Prior DWI’s Generally Inadmissible as Evidence
The general rule in criminal trials is that evidence of prior criminal acts is not admissible as evidence. Such evidence would unduly prejudice the jury while adding very little probative value to the case at trial. Evidence that a man drove drunk once in the past does not make it more or less likely that he was driving drunk on the specific night in question during the trial. This general rule applies no matter how many prior DWI’s a person may have received.
Exception to the General Rule: Testifying in Your Own Defense
If a defendant chooses to take the stand to testify on his own behalf at trial, then the evidence of prior crimes, including any prior drunk driving cases, can come into evidence. There are multiple reasons for this, but the two most important are: 1) so the prosecutor can show the person was familiar with the procedures of a drunk driving investigation and arrest; and 2) evidence of prior crimes can be introduced to impeach the credibility of the defendant if he testifies in his own defense.
It is unlikely the York, Pennsylvannia DA will be allowed to introduce evidence of the prior drunk driving case, or of the alcohol related classes the defendant may have previously attended. This is one of the benefits for a defendant with priors during a drunk driving trial, and it is also why a defendant with multiple DWI’s still has the opportunity for a fair trial.
If you have been charged with a DWI or a Felony DWI and believe you may want to explore the possibility off fighting your case at trial, please contact The Law Office of Jason A. Korner for a consultation.
Source: www.ydr.com, “DA wants to raise prior DUI at trial for fire chief’s death,” Rick Lee, September 18, 2013.