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Arizona Court Considers Defendant’s Request to Exclude Harmful Evidence of His Home-Made Videos

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona assault by vehicle case discussing the defendant’s challenger to certain videos he took on his cell phone before the incident leading up to his arrest. Ultimately, the court determined that the videos were admissible, rejecting the defendant’s issues on appeal.

The Facts of the Case

In this appeal, the defendant was charged with two separate, but similar offenses. First, in 2012, the defendant was charged with various crimes after he intentionally caused a head-on collision with another driver. In that case, the other driver was seriously injured and had to learn to walk again. The following year, the defendant caused another car accident, this time, by grabbing the wheel and jerking it as his partner was driving. His partner died as a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident. The defendant was charged with aggravated assault, one count of manslaughter, and two counts of endangerment. The defendant was tried by jury and convicted. He appealed on several issues.

One of the defendant’s appellate issues pertained to the admission of a YouTube video the defendant previously recorded. Evidently, before trial, the prosecution presented the court with seven of the defendant’s YouTube videos, showing him driving at extreme speeds. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the videos, arguing 1.) they were highly prejudicial and should be kept out of evidence, and 2.) the videos were being used by the prosecution to prove the defendant’s bad character. The court determined that one of the videos was admissible.

Prejudicial Evidence

Under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 (as well as Arizona Rule of Evidence 403), relevant evidence may be excluded “if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of … unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.”

Character Evidence

Under Federal Rule of Evidence 404 (as well as Arizona Rule of Evidence 404), evidence that tends to prove a party’s character is not admissible. However, if that same evidence is being used for another purpose, it may be admitted for that limited purpose. Valid purposes include proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.

The Appellate Court’s Opinion

Here, the court rejected the defendant’s evidentiary challenges. The court explained that the YouTube videos were relevant in that they showed the jury that the defendant’s actions were unlikely to be an honest mistake. Because the evidence was relevant and used for a non-character purpose, it was admissible. The case illustrates the importance of having an experienced attorney who is intimately familiar with the Arizona Rules of Evidence.  Evidentiary questions are often not black-and-white. Thus, there is ample room for argument when it comes to the admission of potentially harmful evidence.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona Assault by Vehicle Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona assault by vehicle offense, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is a veteran Tempe criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling even the most complex cases. With Attorney Novak in your corner, you can rest assured that you are in good hands. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney today, call 480-413-1499.

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