Can Weapons Be Admitted Into Evidence if Not Used in Crime?
When prosecutors present cases where weapons were used in the commission of an underlying offense, additional weapons owned by defendants are sought for admission into evidence. In admitting this evidence, the State of Florida is attempting to show that a defendant exhibits a pattern of gun ownership while attacking their credibility.
As we look at how weapons crimes may lead to the introduction of additional items into evidence, bear in mind each case forms on its own merits with no outcome mirroring another.
Linking the Weapon and the Defendant to the Crime
Prosecutors may request admission of additional weapons if doing so helps prove the identity of the alleged perpetrator. Using this basis requires proof the weapon belongs to the defendant, normally requiring a close relationship between the additional weapon and that which was used to commit the offense.
Weapons permitted into evidence that were not used in a primary offense could be used to display a defendant’s inclination to conceal weapons, considered relevant in proving consciousness of guilt.
Trial courts will weigh the probative value of additional weapons in relation to the defendant’s credibility and the potential prejudicial connotations doing so may impose in rendering a fair decision.
One case often cited in helping trial courts adjudicate additional evidence is Agatheas v. State, 28 So.3d 204 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010), which was reversed when the Supreme Court believed a 45-caliber revolver, bandana and latex gloves were admitted in error, thereby denying Agatheas a fair trial by cumulative effect.
Using Unassociated Weapons as Prosecutorial Aids
Courts make every conscionable effort to allow cases to be heard as fairly and equitably as possible. When evidence is found to be inadmissible, however, prosecutors may want to use the disqualified evidence as a demonstrative aid to afford the jury an opportunity to view purported the weapon as relevant to the case they’ll ultimately decide.
For this strategy to pass court rules, the weapon must closely resemble the one used to commit the alleged offense. Additionally, the jury must be informed that the visual aid is not the actual weapon, and the presentation is pertinent to an honest account of events that transpired.
An issue that Florida courts grapple with involves the admission of irrelevant weaponry as evidence or visual aids. Prosecutors may find admitting several wooden baseball bats found at the defendant’s home difficult in gun crimes as clearly no link exists between a gunshot and bludgeoning. Moreover, bats are common in many American homes, establishing no credible tie to an alleged shooting.
The Evidence Must Be Factually Correct
Judges give little leeway to defense teams and prosecutors when admission of evidence is requested. Prosecutors are careful in selecting relevant items to admit, while defendants equally choose their battles carefully.
No evidence will be allowed if it paints an unfair picture, or places a defendant in an unfair disadvantage, which is why admitting weapons found to be in the proximity or home of the defendant are carefully reviewed before being used to try cases.
Let an Attorney Help You Today
Donald C. Barrett, P.A. defends weapon charges in Tampa and all of Hillsborough County. If you’re facing an uphill battle in defending charges against you, call the office immediately at 813-280-1201.