Tuesday, January 04, 2011

DUI Appeal of the Day - Serial Conniver Loses Appeal

Recently, the DAD column has discussed the introduction of prior DUIs into evidence to establish 'recklessness' or 'malice aforethought' in subsequent DUI-death cases, where manslaughter or murder charges are included. Below is another use for priors at trial. In Michigan v. Amine, Not Reported in N.W.2d, 2010 WL 5346019 (Mich.App.) yet another basis for introducing a prior DUI has been approved - common scheme or design (referred to as "common system" in the below opinion). Here, the defendant was arrested for DUI, and at trial he claimed that he was not the driver. In fact, his sister testified that she was driving when the car was in the accident. The court allowed the State to introduce his prior DUI as evidence of a common scheme - that defendant was able to get other people to lie for him. Michigan law (which follows the federal rules here) MRE 404(b)(1) provides: Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, scheme, plan, or system in doing an act, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident when the same is material, whether such other crimes, wrongs, or acts are contemporaneous with, or prior or subsequent to the conduct at issue in the case. Michigan law holds that there is a three-step process for trial courts to use to admit other acts evidence. The evidence must be relevant to an issue other than propensity, relevant under MRE 402 to a fact at issue at trial, and it must survive a MRE 403 balancing process determining if the danger of undue prejudice substantially outweighs the evidence's probative value. In addition, “the trial court, upon request, may provide a limiting instruction under Rule 105.” “Where the only relevance is to character or the defendant's propensity to commit the crime, the evidence must be excluded.” In finding the 2 DUIs substantially similar, the court described them as follows: The issue presented centers on how similar the prior OWI arrest is to the instant case. In both cases, defendant was intoxicated and sitting in the driver's seat of a car when the police arrived. In both cases, defendant denied that he had been driving the car, stated that the driver was someone close to him, and that person confirmed his explanation. In both cases, the car involved was registered to defendant's father. There are some differences. In the prior case, the person who allegedly drove the car was actually in the passenger's seat, whereas, here, the alleged driver was not at the scene when the police arrived. In the previous case, defendant was stopped for not wearing a seat belt. In this case, police arrived because defendant's car hit a fire hydrant. Most notably, defendant's defense each time was that a different person had been driving. Because both his sister, in this case, and the friend, in the prior instance, corroborated defendant's story, the chain of relevance for admitting the evidence must include an inference that defendant is capable of convincing people to lie for him. Ultimately, the appeals court found that the prior DUI was therefore admissible as a evidence of a common scheme, and upheld the conviction. Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at www.1800dialdui.com or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!

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