Character Evidence California
Character evidence may take the form of an opinion, reputation or specific acts. ( 1100.) Section 1101, subdivision (a), establishes a general rule that character evidence is inadmissible to prove conduct:
"Except as provided in this section and in Sections 1102 . . . [and] 1108 . . ., evidence of a person's character or a trait of his or her character (whether in the form of an opinion, evidence of reputation, or evidence of specific instances of his or her conduct) is inadmissible when offered to prove his or her conduct on a specified occasion."
An expert opinion about a defendant's disposition to engage in sexual conduct with children is a form of character evidence. (See People v. Stoll (1989) 49 Cal. 3d 1136, 1152-1153 [265 Cal. Rptr. 111, 783 P.2d 698].)
Section 1101, subdivision (b) permits "evidence that a person committed a crime, civil wrong or other act when relevant to prove some fact (such as motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge . . .) other than his or her disposition to commit such act." (See People v. Ewoldt (1994) 7 Cal. 4th 380, 393, 400 [27 Cal. Rptr. 2d 646, 867 P.2d 757].)
Section 1101, subdivision (b) thus permits evidence of uncharged specific acts for certain limited purposes, but does not authorize opinion testimony about a defendant's character.
Section 1102 provides, "In a criminal action, evidence of the defendant's character or a trait of his character in the form of an opinion or evidence of his reputation is not made inadmissible by Section 1101 if such evidence is:
(a) Offered by the defendant to prove his conduct in conformity with such character or trait of character.
(b) Offered by the prosecution to rebut evidence adduced by the defendant under subdivision (a)." (Italics added; see People v. Stoll, supra, 49 Cal. 3d at p. 1153.)
Section 1102 allows the prosecution to present relevant opinion evidence regarding a defendant's character, but only when the defendant has first offered evidence placing his character in issue. ( People v. Pangelina (1984) 153 Cal. App. 3d 1, 8 [199 Cal. Rptr. 916].)
Section 1108, subdivision (a) provides, "In a criminal action in which the defendant is accused of a sexual offense, evidence of the defendant's commission of another sexual offense or offenses is not made inadmissible by Section 1101, if the evidence is not inadmissible pursuant to section 352." (Italics added; see People v. Falsetta (1999) 21 Cal. 4th 903, 907, 922 [89 Cal. Rptr. 2d 847, 986 P.2d 182]; People v. Soto (1998) 64 Cal. App. 4th 966, 982-984 [75 Cal. Rptr. 2d 605]; People v. Fitch (1997) 55 Cal. App. 4th 172 [63 Cal. Rptr. 2d 753].)
Like section 1101, subdivision (b), section 1108 authorizes evidence of a defendant's uncharged acts in certain cases, but says nothing about opinion evidence regarding character. (See People v. Callahan (1999) 74 Cal. App. 4th 356, 378 [87 Cal. Rptr. 2d 838].)