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Impeachment by Criminal Conviction

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s podcast discusses the impeachment of a witness by evidence of a criminal conviction.

Impeachment in this context means presenting evidence that calls into question the integrity of a witness.

The rule that deals with impeachment by evidence of a criminal conviction is Rule 609.

The rule provides that a court must permit a witness’s credibility to be challenged by evidence that the witness was convicted of a crime.

But admissibility is limited. The rule is limited to evidence of convictions for:

(1) murder, treason, rape, robbery, kidnapping, burglary, arson, or criminal confinement; or

(2) a crime involving dishonesty or false statement, including perjury.

Other limitations apply. The primary limitation is that if more than 10 years have passed since the witness was convicted or released from prison, whichever is later, the evidence can only be admitted if:

–     its probative value, supported by specific facts and circumstances, substantially outweighs its prejudicial effect; and

–     the proponent gives an adverse party reasonable written notice of the intent to use it so that the party has a fair opportunity to contest its use.

If the witness has been pardoned for their crime, then evidence of the crime is not admissible.

The issue of evidence of a past criminal conviction is, as you can see, complicated.

We always encourage people to be sure they are forthright with their attorney if they have a conviction in their past.

Even though the rule might, on the surface, make the conviction admissible, a judge does have discretion in some situations to exclude the conviction.

But, if a person lies under oath in court or at a deposition and says they have no conviction (when they do have a conviction), the evidence will be admissible.

The reason? Because it proves that the person is a liar. In other words, it comes into evidence not as a conviction per se but as proof that the witness is a liar.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”