(Law question) Why is some evidence disallowed due to being too punitive?

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I plan on posting in other relevant subs as well. When a judge disallows potential evidence as being more punitive than probative, how is that a thing? If there is proof or a fact that could help determine a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, why would you ever not let that into evidence? “Too punitive”, isn’t that the point?

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8 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Imagine you’re playing a game with your friends, and someone brings up a silly mistake you made in kindergarten. Sure, it’s true, but it’s not really fair to judge your current gaming skills based on that! In court, if evidence is too “ouchy” and makes the defendant look way worse than they are, it’s like bringing up that kindergarten goof—it might not be allowed to keep things fair and focused on the real case.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The rules of evidence are concerned with constitutional rights and reliability.  Constitutional rights means that the government doesn’t have the legal power to obtain the evidence in the first place.
 Constitutional rights tend to be concerning very strong evidence – confessions, stuff seized from homes / cars, informants who don’t want to testify in person

Reliability rules make it more difficult to introduce false testimony, false physical evidence or false science. The idea is that if someone botches chain of custody, there’s no longer any proof that the coke is in fact the coke from the case the person is charged with carrying. 

Reliability also covers “man this guy is a scumbag” because “this guy is a scumbag” is not in fact part of the crime charged. 

Anonymous 0 Comments

I think you’re referring to evidence that is too prejudicial relative to its probative value. An extreme example is if you are trying someone for tax fraud, and the prosecutor wants to introduce evidence that he once raped someone to show that he’s untrustworthy. The judge would exclude that because the evidence of the rape would probably overwhelm the jury – it’s such a horrible crime relative to tax fraud – that they would have a hard time focusing on the evidence and would convict the defendant to punish him for the rape. This is why character evidence is usually not allowed, and prior convictions are only allowed if they are very very similar to the crime being charged.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The standard isn’t “too punitive” – it’s “unfairly prejudicial.” Direct evidence of involvement in a crime is almost never considered unfairly prejudicial. Indirect evidence that someone may have a propensity to commit a crime, but not directly related to the specific crime alleged, may be considered more prejudicial than probative.

As an example, assume someone has been accused (not convicted, just accused) of stealing a car sometime in their past. Today they’re on trial for robbing a bank. Generally, it would be considered far more prejudicial than probative to allow the prosecution to bring up the prior accusation. It’s not a conviction, and it’s only related/similar to the alleged bank robbery in that they’re both theft crimes. So it doesn’t really help establish that the accused is guilty of the bank robbery. But a member of the jury could easily conclude he accused is a career criminal (or at least a repeat offender) if they hear about a prior accusation.

Now if the accused has robbed multiple banks in the past, then while those past incidences don’t really establish that they robbed another bank, they are far more probative than a factually unrelated accusation. Generally, the prior bank robberies would be admitted into evidence.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Other comments have established that you are asking about prejudicial evidence.

Other comments have also addressed propensity and character evidence.

Allow me to address specifically an example of prejudicial evidence. Say the accused is charged with possessing child pornography. The prosecutor would have to prove that the material was child pornography and that the accused possessed it. But if at trial, the accused concedes that the material is child pornography, the nature of the material becomes uncontentious at trial and therefore the material would not be probative of anything at issue. Therefore, the material would be purely prejudicial and possibly inadmissible.

Anonymous 0 Comments

To the extent the other comments are addressing “propensity” or “other acts” evidence, technically that’s a different rule than what you’re asking about here (danger of unfair prejudice). The rule itself talks about evidence that is unfairly prejudicial, confuses the issues, misleads the jury, wastes time or needlessly presents cumulative evidence. There is also a whole separate rule that says only relevant evidence can be presented. 

So, in order, you ask (1) is the evidence relevant; (2) if so, does it pose a danger of unfair prejudice, confusion or so on; (3) is it improper character evidence; (4) does it violate some other rule (e.g. hearsay).

Anonymous 0 Comments

The point if court is supposed to be finding if the person did a crime not just if someone is a general “bad guy”. If someone is on trial for murder you can’t just bring up the guy on trial raped a bunch of little girls if it’s not related, even if he did. That kid raping guy is definitely bad but that might Have zero to do with if he killed the specific guy the trial is about. Trials would suck if every one was just finding the most bad guy to send to jail instead of being about the crime they are about

Anonymous 0 Comments

Legal questions like these make no sense without specifying what nation’s legal system you are referring to.