MRE 404(B)(1) Interpretation

MRE 404(b)(1) governs the admission of other-acts evidence, and provides as follows: Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, scheme, plan, or system in doing an act, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident when the same is material, whether such other crimes, wrongs, or acts are contemporaneous with, or prior or subsequent to the conduct at issue in the case. In order for other-acts evidence to be admissible, it must be offered for a proper purpose under MRE 404(b), it must be relevant under MRE 402, and its probative value must not be substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice under MRE 403. Crawford, supra at 385; People v. VanderVliet, 444 Mich 52, 55; 508 NW2d 114 (1993), amended 445 Mich 1205 (1994). If the evidence is admitted, the court may, upon request, instruct the jury not to consider the evidence for any purposes beyond those for which it was offered. VanderVliet, supra at 55. The thrust of MRE 404(b) is that the prosecutor may not introduce evidence of other acts to demonstrate a propensity to commit the charged offense. The Supreme Court of Michigan has directed us to consider whether the trial court's construction of MRE 404(b) was erroneous in light of People v. Starr, 457 Mich 490; 577 NW2d 673 (1998), People v. DerMartzex, 390 Mich 410; 213 NW2d 97 (1973), and People v. Miller (On Remand), 186 Mich App 660; 465 NW2d 47 (1991). The decision whether such evidence is admissible is within the trial court's discretion and will only be reversed where there has been an abuse of discretion. People v. Bahoda, 448 Mich 261, 289-291; 531 NW2d 659 (1995). In People v. VanderVliet, 444 Mich 52, 55; 508 NW2d 114 (1993), amended 445 Mich 1205 (1994), the Court rejected a bright line approach to the rule, and set forth the following test for the admission of other acts evidence: First, that the evidence be offered for a proper purpose under Rule 404(b); second, that it be relevant under Rule 402 as enforced through Rule 104(b); third, that the probative value of the evidence is not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice; fourth, that the trial court may, upon request, provide a limiting instruction to the jury.