A recent decision by the First District Court of Appeal makes it clear the prosecutor generally cannot use other bad acts you may have committed to prove you did the act for which you are currently being prosecuted.
In Stephen Trahan v. State, while parked in his driveway the victim’s truck was broken into, ransacked and his backpack stolen. A few days later, the victim happened to see Mr. Trahan walking through his neighborhood with what appeared to be his stolen backpack. He confronted Trahan and demanded he hand over the backpack. The police were summoned, and a subsequent investigation ultimately resulted in Trahan’s arrest on burglary charges.
As the case progressed, the victim’s ownership of the backpack became the dispositive factual issue. If proven, it would be the link between Trahan and the vehicle burglary. During the trial, the State introduced evidence that when Trahan was arrested, a checkbook belonging to a third party with no connection to the burglary was found inside the backpack. Trahan’s lawyer objected to the admission of this evidence. The trial court nonetheless admitted it, and Trahan was found guilty.