There has been an established common law tradition of banning propensity evidence, evidence of one crime that is used to show a defendant is more likely to have committed another crime, in many types of cases. The rationale behind this ban is that allowing evidence of uncharged conduct to demonstrate a defendant’s propensity to commit a particular crime, forces a defendant to defend against the uncharged conduct as well as the charged crime. In addition, many courts have also worried that juries would convict defendants based on a perceived propensity to commit an act, rather than the actual charged crime.
Over the past several years, however, Illinois courts have been increasingly willing to allow propensity evidence in domestic violence cases. For example, in People v. Flores, 2013 IL App (1st 111034-U, Jorge Flores-Sanchez was convicted of domestic battery of his former girlfriend, Melissa Varvouledos, and violation of an order of protection. On June 26, 2009, the Flores-Sanchez choked and pushed Varvouledos down 10 stairs. At trial, the court allowed the State to introduce three prior instances of domestic violence against Varvouledos under 725 ILCS 5/115-7.4. Defendant appealed his conviction and sentencing, in part, upon the trial court’s admission of three instances of other-crime domestic violence or propensity evidence. The Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s conviction and held that the trial court properly allowed evidence of the three prior instances of domestic violence. The Court’s opinion stated, in relevant part:
Under section 115-7.4 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (the “Code”) (725 IL CS 5/ 115-7.4 West 2008)), specific instances of defendant’s prior acts of domestic violence are admissible and may be considered for their bearing on any matter to which they are relevant. (Emphasis added.) Generally, other-crimes evidence is admissible if relevant for any purpose other than propensity , including, but not limited to, motive, intent, identity, lack of mistake and modus operandi. People v. Dabbs, 239 Ill. 2d 277, 283 (2010). This section of the Code provides an exception to the prohibition against the use of propensity evidence, and permits admission of such propensity evidence in a prosecution for domestic violence where the other -crimes evidence is relevant, and the probative value is not substantially outweighed by the risk of undue prejudice. 725 IL CS 5/115-7.4; see also Dabbs, 239 Ill. 2d at 290. Further, in weighing the probative value against undue prejudice to the defendant, the trial court may also consider the proximity in time to the charged offense, the degree of factual similarity to the charged offense, or other relevant facts and circumstances. 725 ILCS 5/115-7.4(b)(3).
In sum, the Appellate Court upheld the admission of propensity evidence in this case because those instances were relevant to show that the defendant committed domestic violence against Varvouledos.
What is an act of “domestic violence”?
Any person who chokes, harasses, hits, interferes, kicks, or threatens the personal liberty of another family or household member may have committed an act of “domestic violence” under Illinois law.
Under Illinois law, family or household members include the following individuals:
- Family members related by blood;
- People who are married or used to be married;
- People who share or used to share a home, apartment, or other common dwelling;
- People who have or allegedly have child in common or a blood relationship through a child in common;
- People who are dating or engaged or used to date, including same sex couples; and
- People with disabilities and their personal assistants.
You Deserve to Have Quality Legal Representation:
Contact an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney
Domestic violence is a complex area of the law for families. If you have been accused or are being abused, it is important to consult with an attorney to learn your rights. The Ivec Law firm will represent both women and men — the accused and the abused — and provide each client with the personal attention and care that they deserve.
Contact John Paul Ivec, Attorney at Law, P.C. today. Call 815-439-9909 or click HERE to send an e-mail today.