Criminal Law Cases: A Look At Character Evidence And When It Can Be Used

10 March 2016
 Categories: Law, Articles


Don't waste any time contacting a criminal defense attorney the moment that you are charged with a crime in order to make sure that all of your rights are protected. Your criminal defense attorney will review the specifics of your case, including whether proper procedures where performed, to build a strong defense on your behalf. There are many misconceptions when it comes to how and when character evidence can be introduced and used in court. This article will hopefully help clarify these issues.

Prosecution vs. Defendant

Many people are under the misconception that character evidence can be used to clear their name – especially if the crime that they are charged with does not match up with their character. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true. Character evidence cannot be offered by the prosecution, and is only admissible if submitted by the defendant as circumstantial evidence and if the character evidence pertains to the nature of the crime that you are being charged with.

For example, in the event that you are being charged with a violent crime, your attorney can submit circumstantial evidence regarding how you are prone to peaceful tendencies. Once your defense attorney has submitted character evidence, the prosecution can then submit evidence to rebut any claims your attorney may have made. Keep in mind that this evidence is circumstantial, and the case cannot solely rely upon character evidence to prove your innocence.

If you and your criminal defense attorney have decided that introducing character evidence may be beneficial for your case, it's important to consider whether there is a time limit for when the evidence must be submitted to the court. Time limits will differ based on state. For example, in Florida, character evidence must be submitted 10 days before trial. In the event that character evidence is not submitted on time, it will become inadmissible.

Types of Character Evidence Admissible in Court

As introducing character evidence into your case can allow the prosecution to offer evidence of rebuttal, it's important to speak with your criminal defense attorney in length to determine whether introducing character evidence will be beneficial for you or not. Character evidence can help sway a jury in your favor in the event that you can offer strong evidence of your character. There are two different types of character evidence admissible in court. They include:

  • testimony from a witness familiar with the defendant's reputation and character prior to when he or she was charged; or,
  • specific instances of conduct documented by paperwork, such as police paperwork or even news documenting any heroic act that you have accomplished before.

Keep in mind that you and your criminal defense attorney will need to be very careful when choosing an appropriate witness. The witness' character and reputation may also be questioned by the prosecution. In general, you should call on a witness that has some social standing in the community in order to further strengthen your case.  


If you are being charged with a crime, you should not rely upon character evidence to support your case–even if the crime that you are being charged with is very out of character with who you are. This is because character evidence will be circumstantial at best, and cannot fully support your case. However, don't overlook the importance of character evidence because it just might be the final straw needed to sway a jury in your favor. Your criminal defense attorney will help you determine and decide whether character evidence is needed, and the type of character evidence to introduce to the court in order to benefit your case. For more information, contact a practice like Rolsch Law Offices.