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A Better Partnership
May 23, 2013

COA holds that a witness's prior theft conviction is not of significant probative value for purposes of impeachment

In Michigan v. Snyder, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a prior theft conviction is inadmissible at trial for purposes of impeachment because a theft conviction typically fails to meet the requirements for admissibility under the Michigan Rules of Evidence (MRE) 609.

MRE 609 provides that a witness's prior theft conviction may be admitted at trial if the prior theft conviction has significant probative value to the witness's credibility. Determining significant probative value contains two elements: the age of the conviction and the degree to which the conviction of the crime is indicative of veracity. In this case, defendant was convicted at trial for stealing four pieces of silver. Defendant moved to exclude a prior theft conviction before trial, but the trial court denied the motion and admitted the conviction. In a previous opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the trial court's decision because the trial court failed to analyze whether the prior conviction had significant probative value towards credibility. On remand, the trial court once again admitted the prior conviction and reasoned that the prior conviction had significant probative value because its facts were different from the facts of this case. The Court of Appeals found that the trial court erred once again because it did not analyze the two elements required to determine significant probative value. In its own analysis, the Court of Appeals held that, although defendant's prior conviction occurred two years ago, generally a prior theft conviction is not of significant probative value. The Court reasoned that previous opinions have held theft crimes to be minimally probative, or, at most, moderately probative, which does not surpass the MRE's 'significant' threshold. Therefore, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court erred and reversed and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with its findings.

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