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What Is The Williams Rule In Florida?


Many states, including Florida, have what is known as a similar fact evidence rule. This allows a party, if they have given proper notice to the other party (and the other party has had an opportunity to file any pretrial motions objecting to the use of similar fact evidence) to admit similar fact evidence. If similar fact evidence is allowed to be admitted, other acts of a similar nature committed by the defendant will be revealed to the jury. The defense, of course, opposes this.

How Similar Fact Evidence is Presented

It is important to remember the defense can also offer similar fact evidence. A classic example would be the complaining witness who is always making the same type of allegation, and it turns out to be false time and time again. The jury will not be instructed on similar fact evidence unless it is to be admitted. The instruction reads: “The evidence you are about to receive concerning evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts allegedly committed by the defendant will be considered by you for the limited purpose of proving motive or opportunity, or intent or preparation or plan or knowledge or the absence of mistake or accident on the part of the defendant and you shall consider it only as it relates to that for those issue or issues.”

If A Witness Has A Prior Record, Can That Be Used Against Them At Trial?

There are some crimes that can be used as what is called Impeachment Evidence, and there are some crimes that cannot be used. For example, if someone has adjudication withheld for most criminal acts, then they cannot be used as impeachment unless, of course, it meets the similar fact evidence rule requirements. When it comes to certain crimes as impeachment, prior record being used against the particular witness, we are instructed to look at two different sections of the evidence code, as well as the case law surrounding it. If evidence relating to a witness is admitted, the judge will instruct the jury as follows: “The evidence that you are about to receive that either a witness or the defendant has been convicted of a crime should be considered by you only in weighing the credibility of the witness or defendant’s testimony and not for any other purpose”.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is a slightly edited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

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