There are two facets to this issue. The first is whether your record can actually be used against you at trial. The second is whether your record can be held against you in plea negotiations or at sentencing if convicted.
Can Your Record Be Used Against You at Trial?
Ohio Rule of Evidence 404(B) and Ohio Rule of Evidence 609(A) are the applicable sections of the Rules of Evidence. Rule 404 allows the prosecution to introduce evidence of prior convictions to show certain things. They cannot introduce those crimes to argue that you must have committed the crime here because you have committed crimes in the past. However, they can introduce those crimes to show things like motive, modus operandi, or absence of mistake.
For example, if you are charged with possession, and they found drugs in your right sock, wrapped up in a Scooby Doo bandana, and you have three prior possession convictions wherein you also had drugs in your right sock, wrapped in a Scooby Doo bandana, then it is very likely that the prosecution would be able to introduce those priors to show a modus operandi (M.O.) and/or an absence of mistake.
However, the admissibility of this type of evidence is still subject to exclusion under Rule 403 if the evidence is so prejudicial (i.e., disadvantageous to your case) that it outweighs its value as helpful evidence.
What Happens if You Testify at Trial?
The decision to testify in your own defense is problematic if you have a criminal record. That is because if you choose to testify, then the prosecutor may be able to tell the jury about your prior convictions, with certain exceptions. By contrast, if you do not testify, then the prosecutor cannot bring up those prior convictions. Accordingly, you will want to consult closely with your attorney with regard to whether you should testify in your own defense. If the sentence on your prior convictions, including probation, was completed more than ten years ago, then the prosecution cannot introduce these crimes.
Can Your Record Be Used Against You in Plea Negotiations or Sentencing?
Yes. When considering plea negotiations, the prosecutor will look at two primary factors. First, they will look at the facts (alleged or actual) and circumstances surrounding this particular case. Second, they will look at your record. Generally speaking, the worse your record, the worse the plea and vice versa. When considering the sentence in the event there is a conviction in your case, the judge will also consider any prior record you may or may not have.
Are you or someone you know facing drug charges in Cincinnati, OH?
If you are facing drug charges, you need to speak with an experienced drug crimes attorney as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams is recognized by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, National Trial Lawyers Top 100, and is one of U.S. News' Best Law Firms. Please contact us online or call our Cincinnati office directly at 513-929-9333 to schedule your free consultation.