In New York, within the context of a criminal case, an attorney may impeach a witness by asking whether he or she was previously convicted of a crime. If the witness answers in the negative or even provides a mixed answer, the adverse party, under New York’s Criminal Procedure Law 60.40 and CPLR 4513, may independently prove the conviction. Under Criminal Procedure Law 4513, the evidence law reads accordingly: A person who has been convicted of a crime is a competent witness; but the conviction may be proved, for the purpose of affecting the weight of his testimony, either
by cross-examination, upon which he shall be required to answer any relevant question, or by the record. The party cross-examining is not concluded by such person’s answer.
In other words, the buffalo criminal lawyer may provide documentation of the conviction in order to resolve the matter with the witness. While generally such “independent evidence” would be considered “collateral matters” and as a result, the buffalo criminal attorney is bound by the witness’s answers, the use of this sort of evidence within this context is an exception to that general rule.
However, if a defendant through another witness, offers character evidence (evidence of a particular trait about defendant), under CPL 60.40(2), the buffalo criminal attorneys for the prosecution may independently prove defendant’ previous conviction, to negate the character attribute.
There is a limitation to this rule, however. For instance, a buffalo criminal lawyer cannot use an arrest without also providing the conviction. Along similar lines, where a witness was arrested but not convicted, the use of the arrest for impeachment purposes is not permissible.
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