California Landmark Cases on Prior Bad Acts Evidence

Evidence that a defendant has committed crimes or misconduct, other than that currently charged, is not admissible to prove that the defendant is a person of bad character or has a criminal disposition; but such evidence is admissible to prove, if sufficiently similar and material, among other things, the identity of the perpetrator of the charged crimes, the existence of a common design or plan, or the intent with which the perpetrator acted in the commission of the charged crimes. (Evid. Code, 1101, subd. (b); People v. Ewoldt (1994) 7 Cal.4th 380 at pp. 402-403; People v. Demetrulias (2006) 39 Cal.4th 1, 14.) The admissibility of misconduct or other crimes evidence depends on " '(1) the materiality of the facts sought to be proved, (2) the tendency of the uncharged crimes to prove those facts and (3) the existence of any rule or policy requiring exclusion of the evidence.' " (People v. Steele (2002) 27 Cal.4th 1230, 1243 (Steele).) While other crimes or misconduct evidence may be admissible under Evidence Code section 1101, subdivision (b), because of its highly prejudicial nature, such evidence also must not contravene other policies limiting admission, such as those contained in Evidence Code section 352. (Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 404.) Thus, we also examine whether the probative value of the evidence of defendant's uncharged offenses or misconduct evidence is " 'substantially outweighed by the probability that its admission [would] . . . create substantial danger of undue prejudice, of confusing the issues, or of misleading the jury.' (Evid. Code, 352.)" (Ibid.) We review the trial court's rulings under Evidence Code sections 1101, subdivision (b) and 352 for abuse of discretion, examining the evidence in the light most favorable to the court's ruling. (People v. Kipp (1998) 18 Cal.4th 349, 370; People v. Jennings (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 1301, 1314.)