Cyber Evidence, When is Additional Evidence of a Crime Admissible

January 7, 2008 by David S. Seltzer

As a general rule, similar fact evidence is admissible if it casts light on a material fact in issue other than the defendant’s bad character or propensity. Bryan v. State, 533 So.2d 744, 746 (Fla. 1988). Evidence of other crimes, whether factually similar or dissimilar to the charged crime, is admissible if the evidence is relevant to prove a matter of consequence other than bad character or propensity. Williams v. State, 621 So.2d 413, 414 (Fla. 1993); Bryan v. State, 533 So.2d 744, 746 (Fla. 1988). “It is clear that other crime evidence that is probative of a material fact in issue is not inadmissible simply because it has a tendency to suggest the commission of another crime and thus necessarily is prejudicial to the defendant.” Williams v. State, 621 So.2d 413, 414 (Fla. 1993).

The appellate court ruled that the defendant’s possession of stolen property not charged in the information was relevant and admissible in a possession of stolen property case. Perez v. State, 220 So.2d 397 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1969). The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred in allowing evidence of the defendant having stolen property in his possession, which was in addition to that alleged in the information. The court noted that one of the necessary elements of proof in the charge was that the defendant knew that the goods in his possession were stolen and that his possession of the uncharged stolen goods was relevant to that issue.

In an online solicitation case, the government sought to introduce evidence of uncharged images of child pornography found on the defendant’s computer. The defense objected to the introduction of the uncharged images on the grounds that they were irrelevant, and unfairly prejudicial. The Government argued that the defendant’s viewing and possession of child pornography and erotica images demonstrated his sexual interest in children and such conduct was probative of his intent to fulfill that interest online.

The Court finds that the Government offers the images for a permissible purpose other than to show a propensity to commit the crimes charged. Moreover, the Court concludes that such images are relevant to the crimes charged. Indeed, evidence that [the defendant] exhibited an interest in child erotica and child pornography on the internet in the period leading up to the charged conduct is pertinent to whether he used the internet in an attempt to engage in sexual conduct with [a minor.] Defendant's argument that the images are irrelevant because the Government has not established a causal link between viewing child pornography and soliciting children for sex is unavailing because it overstates the Government's burden.

United States v. Brand, 2005 WL 77055 (S.D.N.Y. 2005).

Therefore, when there is a causal link and intent is an element of the crime, evidence of additional uncharged crimes is admissible against a defendant in a criminal case.