Are Collateral Crime Evidence Admissible ?

In Williams v. State, 621 So. 2d 413, 416-17 (Fla. 1993), the Supreme Court of Florida held that "if found to be relevant for any purpose save that of showing bad character or propensity," "relevant evidence will not be excluded merely because it relates to similar facts which point to the commission of a separate crime." 110 So. 2d at 662, 659. The rule has since been codified in section 90.404(2)(a), Florida Statutes (2006), which provides that "similar fact evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is admissible when relevant to prove a material fact in issue, . .but it is inadmissible when the evidence is relevant solely to prove bad character or propensity." This Court has held that before admitting collateral crime evidence, the trial court must make four determinations: whether the defendant committed the collateral crime; whether the collateral crime meets the similarity requirements necessary to be relevant; whether the collateral crime is too remote, so as to diminish its relevance; and whether pursuant to section 90.403, Florida Statutes, the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Robertson v. State, 829 So. 2d 901, 907-08 (Fla. 2002). The Court considers both similarities and dissimilarities between the collateral crimes and the charged offense when reviewing whether "a sufficiently unique pattern of criminal activity justifies admission." Peek v. State, 488 So. 2d 52, 55 (Fla. 1986) (quoting Chandler v. State, 442 So. 2d 171, 173 (Fla. 1983)). A trial court's determination that evidence is relevant and admissible "will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion." Taylor v. State, 855 So. 2d 1, 21 (Fla. 2003) (quoting Sexton v. State, 697 So. 2d 833, 837 (Fla. 1997)).