Arizona Rule 609(A) Interpretation

Rule 609(a) allows the impeachment of a testifying defendant with a prior conviction if the trial court determines "the probative value of admitting this evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect . . . ." In contrast, Rule 403 allows the trial court to exclude evidence if "its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice . . . ." Thus, under Rule 609, the defendant is not required to demonstrate that the prejudice of the impeachment is "unfair" or that the prejudice of the impeachment "substantially" outweighs its probative value. In Arizona, in applying a Rule 609(a) analysis to the same type of evidence, our supreme court has said: A trial court should sparingly admit evidence of prior convictions when the prior convictions are similar to the charged offense; or in appropriate cases, the trial court may reduce the risk of prejudice by admitting the fact of a prior conviction without disclosing the nature of the crime. State v. Bolton, 182 Ariz. 290, 303, 896 P.2d 830, 843 (1995); See also State v. Williams, 144 Ariz. 479, 482, 698 P.2d 724, 727 (1985); State v. Williams, 144 Ariz. 433, 438, 698 P.2d 678, 683 (1985); Watkins, 133 Ariz. at 2-3, 648 P.2d at 117-18.