Personal Testimony in Trial: Good Character

Personal Testimony in Trial: Good Character

When in court there are certain rules of evidence that dictate when, or when you shouldn’t, talk about your good character.

As outlined in the California Evidence Code 1103, the prosecution cannot call a character witness against the accused. In addition, the prosecution cannot bring up prior crimes [outside of a sexual nature] in order to prove that someone has a tendency to commit certain crimes. Certain exceptions apply when the prosecution wishes to use prior crimes to prove identification, motive, common scheme or lack of mistake or accident. In those cases [and with sexual crimes] prior crimes can be brought in.


However, just because the prosecution is barred does not mean the defense is barred from admitting it. The defense, according to the Mercy Rule, can bring up their own character as a consideration to their innocence. Once this is done the prosecution is then allowed to talk about the defendant’s character without restrictions, along with bringing up any prior crimes the defendant might have committed in his past. The privilege of not talking about character is left up to the defendant, but once that privilege is waived it is good for the rest of the trial.

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Scott Tibbedeaux

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Stockton, CA 95202