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Modus Operandi (MO) Evidence: Is it Fair to Peg Similar Crime Scenes to One Person?

In criminal proceedings, there are rules of evidence that exist so that the criminal justice system can attempt to be as balanced as possible, and ensure that criminal defendants are given the utmost opportunity to show their innocence. The Federal Rules of Evidence provides limitations, rules, and boundaries so that criminal defendants are able to proceed with their case and can only be prosecuted if it is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that each element of a crime has been supported and satisfied by the evidence.

Prior Crimes, Wrongs, or Other Acts Evidence

One of the most well-known rules is the protection of criminal defendants from any evidence that is considered not be material and relevant to the offense at hand, but goes to the character of the criminal defendant. In other words, just because a criminal defendant has been convicted of tax fraud does not automatically impugn guilt onto the defendant in his/her present case of assault charges. This is known as prior crimes, wrongs, or other acts evidence.

Character Evidence

The prosecution is also unable to put forth evidence known as character evidence. Character evidence is any evidence that is put forward to prove a character trait of the criminal defendant so as to show that on a particular occasion the person acted according to that character trait. In other words, the prosecution cannot admit evidence that is not relevant about the person by stating because he or she has been a violent person in the past, that at the time of the offense, he or she acted in that manner.

Modus Operandi: the Exception to the Evidence Rule

The prosecution is allowed to admit evidence that can be used to prove motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, lack of accident, and modus operandi (MO). For example, if the defendant had previously been convicted of robbing a bank wearing a Roger Rabbit mask used a specific type of gun, and got in and around the bank security in a distinct manner, the court may find that this evidence is probative if the defendant is being charged for a robbery that took place in a similar manner.

How Modus Operandi Evidence is Used Within the Criminal Justice System

Modus operandi (MO) has a significant place in our criminal justice system, as it is the type of evidence that is collected, evaluated, monitored, and placed within a categorization system that is accessible throughout the states. The Federal Bureau of Investigation put together a system known as the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) in an effort to catch the country’s most violent criminals through their distinctive behaviors. The purpose is largely to pattern seemingly isolated attacks so that if one crime scene in Tennessee seems similar to another crime scene in Kentucky, the aggregation of the two scenes could provide enough evidence to find the suspected criminal.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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