Is the Admissibility of Other Crimes Evidence Limited to Crimes With Similar Facts ?

In Williams v. State, 110 So. 2d 654 (Fla. 1959), this Court reiterated the standard rule for admission of evidence; that is, that any evidence relevant to prove a material fact at issue is admissible unless precluded by a specific rule of exclusion. See 90.402, Fla. Stat. (1995). The Court also said relevant evidence will not be excluded merely because it relates to facts that point to the commission of a separate crime, but added the caveat that "the question of the relevancy of this type of evidence should be cautiously scrutinized before it is determined to be admissible." 110 So. 2d at 662. This rule concerning the admissibility of similar fact evidence has been codified by the Legislature as section 90.404(2), Florida Statutes (1995). Later, in Bryan v. State, 533 So. 2d 744 (Fla. 1988), we made it clear that the admissibility of other crimes evidence is not limited to crimes with similar facts. We stated that similar fact evidence may be admissible pursuant to section 90.404, and other crimes or bad acts that are not similar may be admissible under section 90.402. We reiterated the distinction between "similar fact" evidence and "dissimilar fact" evidence in Sexton v. State, 697 So. 2d 833, 837 (Fla. 1997). Thus, section 90.404 is a special limitation governing the admissibility of similar fact evidence. But if evidence of a defendant's collateral bad acts bears no logical resemblance to the crime for which the defendant is being tried, then section 90.404(2)(a) does not apply and the general rule in section 90.402 controls. A trial court has broad discretion in determining the relevance of evidence and such a determination will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Heath v. State, 648 So. 2d 660, 664 (Fla. 1994).