Use of Prior Convictions to Impeach In Texas

When reviewing the trial court's ruling permitting the use of a prior conviction for impeachment purposes, we must accord the trial court wide discretion. Theus v. State, 845 S.W.2d 874, 881 (Tex. Crim. App. 1992). The trial court's decision will only be reversed upon a showing of a clear abuse of discretion. Id. The credibility of a witness may be attacked by evidence that he has been convicted of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude. However, the trial court must determine whether the probative value of admitting the evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect. TEX. R. EVID. 609(a). The Court of Criminal Appeals established a five-factor test for evaluating the admissibility of prior convictions under TEX. R. EVID. 609. These factors include: (1) the impeachment value of the prior crime; (2) the temporal proximity of the past crime (relative to the charged offense) and the witness' subsequent history; (3) the similarity between the past crime and the offense being prosecuted; (4) the importance of the defendant's testimony; (5) the importance of the credibility issue. Theus, 845 S.W.2d at 880. As to the first factor, the impeachment value of crimes that involve deception is higher than crimes that involve violence, because crimes that involve violence have a higher potential for prejudice. Id. at 881. Appellant's prior attempted murder conviction is not one that directly relates to dishonesty or deception. Thus, the first factor weighs for exclusion. The second factor, temporal proximity, will favor admission if the past crime is recent and the witness has demonstrated a propensity for running afoul of the law. Id.